Michael Matheson accused of 'degrading' politics as majority say SNP health secretary should resign
An Ipsos poll for STV News found 61 per cent believe Mr Matheson should step down. The SNP minister’s use of expenses to cover the bill is being investigated by authorities at Holyrood.
Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar said Mr Matheson “knowingly misled the public”. He told The Scotsman: "If politicians believe that they can straight-up tell a knowing lie to the public, and they think they can get away with it, then I'm sorry, our politics has got so degraded beyond belief.”
Mr Matheson admitted earlier this month the bill had been caused by his teenage sons using his parliamentary iPad as a hotspot to watch football during a family holiday to Morocco last Christmas.
That admission – in an emotional statement to MSPs – came just days after the minister told journalists there had not been any personal use of the device. While he has now agreed to pay back the full cost of the data bill, opposition parties have called on him to resign or be sacked.
Ipsos found 61 per cent believe Mr Matheson should go, while 31 per cent think he should stay on as health secretary. A total of 1,004 Scottish adults were polled between November 20 and 26. Among 2021 SNP voters, 52 per cent said he should resign and 44 per cent said he should stay.
Asked about the polling, Mr Matheson said he was “committed” to his job as health secretary and supporting the NHS through the winter period.
He said: “I recognise some of the public concern around this matter. As I set out to Parliament, as soon as I became aware that there had been use of my iPad for personal purposes, I took immediate action to ensure Parliament was fully reimbursed for that.”
He said it was appropriate the Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body (SPCB) was investigating the matter.
Mr Matheson added: “The First Minister has been very clear about me making sure that I continue to drive forward the NHS and support its recovery. That’s what I’m focused on doing. I think the public want to know and make sure I’m focused on doing my job to support the NHS, to make sure we’re planning for the winter.”
He said he would not provide a “running commentary” on the SPCB investigation, but added he does not know its timescale.
Speaking to The Scotsman during a visit to a Lar Housing Trust site in South Queensferry, Mr Sarwar said: "We've got a weak First Minister [Humza Yousaf], we've got an out-of-their-depth deputy first minister [Shona Robison], and we have a distracted health secrecy. And in the middle of a cost-of-living crisis and an NHS crisis, that's a disastrous place for us to be.
"The focus of our conversation should be about record long waiting times. It should be about the fact that we have over 800,000 people now in Scotland on an NHS waiting list. It should be about winter planning, because people fear this being one of the worst winters the NHS has ever experienced.
"They're the conversations we should be having, but we're not able to have those conversations because we have a health secretary who knowingly misled the public. We have a health secretary who is fighting to keep his job, and we have a First Minister who is happy to act as a human shield for the controversies and scandals in his own political party, rather than actually being there to govern for the interests of the country."
Mr Sarwar said the First Minister was “too weak” to sack Mr Matheson, adding: "I think he's weak – perfectly nice guy, but just not up to the job."
He accused the SNP of using the same tactics as former prime minister Boris Johnson. "I think it's the same strategy that Boris Johnson used that the SNP are using, which is just hang on, hang on, hang on until the public move on or journalists move on, and have no real accountability and responsibility for individual's actions,” he said.
The Scottish Labour leader added: "If I got a massive bill that came through the door of £11,000, would I wait nine months to find out from my family how they had racked up an £11,000 bill? I don't think I would. I think I'd be asking some pretty serious questions.”
Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross said: “The Scottish public can see right through Michael Matheson’s tissue of lies and cover-ups. By a huge majority they recognise the health secretary’s position is untenable and that he has to go.
“It beggars belief that Humza Yousaf and Michael Matheson refuse to recognise this, when even a majority of SNP supporters do.”
Elsewhere, the Ipsos poll contained more positive news for the SNP, with the party enjoying a ten-point lead over Labour in general election voting intention. Support for independence is at 54 per cent, while 46 per cent would back No.
Keith Brown, the SNP’s deputy leader, said: "The SNP will continue to work as hard as we can every day to improve the lives of the people of this country. By contrast, it has never been clearer that Westminster just doesn't work for Scotland."
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