Michael Matheson’s roaming charges expenses claim could be a police matter – Murdo Fraser

Health Secretary says his £11,000 bill for roaming charges on holiday in Morocco

When you are in a hole stop digging – or when you are on holiday stop data roaming. The kindest interpretation we might put upon Health Secretary Michael Matheson’s claim of £11,000 – a third of the average nurse’s wage – from the taxpayer for data roaming charges incurred whilst on holiday in Morocco is that he is stupid. Remarkably so.

We have all inadvertently run up roaming charges on holiday, but most of us respond immediately to warning messages from providers and ensure that we switch to wi-fi, or at least turn off mobile data. But not the man in charge of our National Health Service. The alarms went off and he ignored them, it appears. However loud the bleeping became he did not attend to the patient.

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It seems remarkably careless of Mr Matheson not to check his equipment before going overseas, despite numerous warnings from the parliamentary authorities that he should do so, and then to apparently ignore prompts from his mobile provider. However, there’s an alternative explanation which is much more serious. Matheson told the parliamentary authorities that his roaming charges had been incurred only on parliamentary business.

It seems unlikely that such an amount could have been incurred simply dealing with emails. It seems much more likely that the device was used for streaming, and it is hard to see how that could be reconciled as a parliamentary expense. Should it turn out that Matheson has incorrectly claimed that these charges were incurred on parliamentary business, then he is in very serious trouble.

At least, he would have to resign from his position in government. But it might also be the case that the police would perhaps be required to investigate.

Matheson was right to pay back from his own pocket the sums that he had claimed, but he only agreed to do it after there was a public outcry, and nearly a year after the costs were originally incurred. If he thinks that is now the end of the matter, then he is sadly deluded.

This all points to an attitude of arrogance and entitlement within the SNP government at Holyrood, a government which is now well past its sell-by date.

Murdo Fraser is a Scottish Conservative MSP for Mid-Scotland and Fife



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