Humza Yousaf launches staunch defence of Michael Matheson in bid to save ally's job
Humza Yousaf launched a staunch defence of his health secretary in a desperate bid to save Michael Matheson’s job.
The First Minister promised there would be more to come from his ally and friend when the MSP makes a personal statement to parliament later today.
However, he said the senior SNP figure had “admitted to an honest mistake”.
Mr Matheson is facing increasing pressure over an £11,000 mobile phone data roaming bill he charged to the parliament following a holiday in Morocco.
He claimed the expense was for parliamentary business, but was forced to pay the money back personally following increased pressure to do so.
The health secretary is yet to outline what the “honest mistake” was, but speculation about family use or the MSP watching football has swirled within Holyrood.
Douglas Ross said the one-day bill of £7,000 was equivalent to 8,000 emails being sent, or one every 10 seconds for 24 hours. It is also the equivalent to around two hours of high quality streaming.
Mr Yousaf said Mr Matheson was a man of “honesty and integrity”, and called on MSPs to give him the “benefit of the doubt”.
He added that there was “more that has been discovered” from his health secretary later today.
Mr Ross called the SNP MSP’s story “farcical beyond belief” and said it was not a mistake but “dishonest”.
The Scottish Conservative leader asked Mr Yousaf whether he would sack Mr Matheson or wait for the health secretary to resign, a question avoided by the First Minister.
Mr Matheson is expected to make a statement to parliament this afternoon in what will be his first comments since the bill for his trip to Morocco was released.
It showed a £7,000 charge for one single day of around three gigabytes of data, with the health secretary having used around six over the course of the trip.
Mr Ross also used First Minister’s Questions to question Mr Yousaf’s judgement as well after the SNP leader initially claimed it was a legitimate expense.
He said: “The First Minister is claiming Michael Matheson’s word is more important than the facts.
"But Humza Yousaf’s integrity is at stake here."
Mr Yousaf responded he had “absolute confidence” in his health secretary, adding: “There is clearly more that has come to light which Michael Matheson will make clear in just a couple of hours time.
"That is why he took the decision to repay back the full amount of this expense.”
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