How the votes on Michael Matheson's future as Falkirk West MSP after iPad scandal could play out

Two votes that will go a long way towards deciding Michael Matheson’s future as a MSP will take place this week

​The Conservatives will urge other MSPs to "stand up for the integrity of the Scottish Parliament" when their motion calling for Michael Matheson's resignation is debated at Holyrood on Wednesday.

Holyrood's standards committee last week backed a 27-day suspension for the former health secretary following revelations about the £11,000 data roaming bill from his parliamentary iPad.

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Mr Matheson initially said the device was used for work purposes before later confessing his teenage sons had used it as a wifi hotspot to stream football while they were on holiday in Morocco.

Health secretary Michael Matheson leaves the chamber following First Minister's Questions in November 2023. Picture: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty ImagesHealth secretary Michael Matheson leaves the chamber following First Minister's Questions in November 2023. Picture: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images
Health secretary Michael Matheson leaves the chamber following First Minister's Questions in November 2023. Picture: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

However, First Minister John Swinney is contesting the committee's decision, saying it was "prejudiced" by the prior comments of one of its Conservative members.

Last week the Scottish Tories said they would table a motion calling on Mr Matheson to resign as Falkirk West MSP. It would not be legally binding and it is likely to fall given the Scottish Greens will oppose it.

As well as the Conservative motion, there will be a further vote in Holyrood this week on the sanctions facing Mr Matheson.

Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross said: "We are bringing forward a vote calling on Michael Matheson to resign because his actions are clearly unacceptable for any MSP.

"In any other line of work, Michael Matheson would lose his job. MSPs cannot put themselves on a higher pedestal than others. We must be held to the same standards.

"However, anyone in the chamber in other parties feels about Michael Matheson personally, the fact is he made a false claim for £11,000 of taxpayers' money and then lied about it to the public, press and parliament.

"A cross-party group found he broke the MSP code of conduct and polls show that the public overwhelmingly agree that he should resign.

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"MSPs must stand up for the integrity of the Scottish Parliament and restore public trust by voting in favour of our motion calling for Michael Matheson's resignation."

Mr Matheson has refused to stand down and said he will "abide" by whatever Parliament decides.

Speaking to journalists last week, he said: "I think it's pretty clear that the process has become highly politicised, which has compromised the process and the fairness of the process. I also think the sanctions they've imposed are excessive and they are unfair."

On Saturday, Mr Swinney defended his decision to challenge the committee's sanction.

He said: "We cannot have our national Parliament presiding over prejudice and certainly not prejudice from the Conservatives."

Asked if critical comments previously made by Conservative Annie Wells had undermined the entire committee's decision, he said: "I think when you bring prejudice into a process, you have to recognise the process is damaged as a consequence.

"Now Parliament will sort out these issues, it will address these issues as it considers the [committee's] report."

Labour MP Ian Murray has meanwhile claimed the First Minister’s defence of Mr Matheson will lead to a “Swinney slump” for the SNP on polling day.

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It comes as the Scottish Greens disputed newspaper reports they would vote with the SNP to back an amendment reducing the 27-day suspension for Mr Matheson.

The Sunday Mail reported the Greens will back an SNP amendment to reduce the length of Mr Matheson’s suspension – with the two parties having enough votes for it to pass at Holyrood.

However, the Greens said this was not the case, adding they would support the standards committee’s recommended sanction while calling on the cross-party group to address their concerns about the process.

Mr Murray, Labour’s shadow Scottish secretary, was campaigning in North Lanarkshire yesterday.

He said: “SNP MPs must be looking at John Swinney’s decision to defend Michael Matheson in absolute despair.

“This a man who attempted to defraud the taxpayer of £11,000 and then lied about it. He’s been caught bang to rights and defending this sleaze will lead to a Swinney slump on July 4.

“The country is crying out for change, but John Swinney can’t deliver that because he’s been at the heart of the SNP for decades. He only offers continuity, and we all know continuity won’t cut it.

“People are seeing the SNP leader defending sleaze when they could have Scottish Labour MPs delivering change.”

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On Saturday evening, a Scottish Greens spokesperson said: “Michael Matheson made a mistake for which he has already been punished, but it is the view of the Green group of MSPs that it is correct that he receives further parliamentary sanction, and we will vote for such action.

“However, we are united in our concern that the standards committee does not appear to have a consistent approach to the level of sanctions proposed, has allowed members to pre-judge the case, and has also seen draft proposals leaked.”



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