Michael Matheson's resignation over iPad expenses scandal is too late to be called honourable – Scotsman comment

Michael Matheson’s decision to quit as Health Secretary is welcome but three months too late

In November, The Scotsman called for Michael Matheson’s resignation on the grounds that he had lied over his £11,000 iPad expenses claim. Nearly three months later, with the Scottish Parliament’s Corporate Body due to issue a report on the affair, he has finally resigned.

His resignation letter was full of self-congratulation for his role in helping to make Scotland “a fairer and more prosperous place” but there was no apology and not a single sign of contrition. Instead, he said he was resigning “in the best interest of myself and the government” and to avoid becoming a “distraction to taking forward the government’s agenda”. Given his continued presence in Cabinet has been a distraction for three months, it seems obvious that the Corporate Body’s report will make unpleasant reading and that is why he had to go.

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It was bad enough when Matheson decided that an £11,000 data roaming charge for a week’s stay in Morocco should be covered entirely by the taxpayer. He should have realised the bill was far too high to be explained by ordinary internet use. Indeed, he said himself that he “could not understand how the cost could be so high”, and yet he put the bill on the public’s tab all the same.

However, after he learned that his sons had used the iPad’s internet connection to stream football, he then denied, when asked directly by The Scotsman, that there had been any personal use of the device. The public must be able to trust that politicians will tell the truth, except in extreme circumstances such as war. Allowing them to get away with telling a direct lie, regardless of the excuse, risks endangering democracy itself. Just as Boris Johnson had to go, so too did Matheson.

Humza Yousaf has a tough job and there are doubts about his ability to do it. His decision to stand by Matheson called his judgment into question even further. Thankfully, Matheson has, at long last, gone. However, in trying to cling on for three months, he missed the chance to ‘do the honourable thing’ and, instead, leaves in disgrace.



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