Michael Matheson agrees to reimburse full cost of £11,000 iPad bill after row

The health secretary had come under sustained pressure over the cost

A senior SNP minister has agreed to reimburse the full cost of a £11,000 data roaming charge he incurred on a parliamentary iPad while on holiday.

Michael Matheson, the health secretary, said he had “reflected long and hard” and would now pay back the full amount of £10,935.74.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

He had come under sustained pressure in recent days after it emerged he racked up the fee during a week-long visit to Morocco around Christmas last year.

Mr Matheson was reportedly warned almost a year earlier to update his device, which had not been switched to Holyrood’s new data provider.

He initially said he would contribute £3,000 towards the cost from his expenses budget while the Scottish Parliament paid the rest. But opposition politicians insisted taxpayers should not have to foot the bill.

The Scottish Conservatives had written to Alison Johnstone, Holyrood’s presiding officer, urging her to launch an investigation amid claims the “eye-watering” costs failed to meet the Parliament’s expenses criteria.

In a statement released at 5pm on Friday, Mr Matheson said: "I have contacted the Scottish Parliament authorities this afternoon to make arrangements to reimburse the full cost of the £10,935.74 incurred in roaming charges on my parliament iPad.

"While the Parliament agreed to pay the bulk of this sum as a legitimate expense, with the rest being met from my office allowance, I have reflected long and hard and accept that the SIM card on this device should have been replaced at an earlier stage.

"Much of the speculation in the past couple of days has questioned my integrity, and I take this extremely seriously. I take equally seriously the reputation of the Scottish Parliament, of which I have always striven to be a diligent member since its restoration in 1999.

"It is my decision to reimburse these costs in full, which I believe in all the circumstances to be the right one.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

"As well as being a constituency MSP, I have an important role as Health Secretary and the coming months will be challenging for our health service. I am determined to be fully focused on taking forward these responsibilities, and I assure the people of Falkirk West and across Scotland that their concerns are my priorities."

It is likely Mr Matheson will continue to face questions about how he managed to incur the bill in the first place. On Thursday, First Minister Humza Yousaf insisted it was a "legitimate parliamentary expense".

Scottish Conservative chairman Craig Hoy said: “Michael Matheson has belatedly been shamed into repaying a bill that he had the audacity to expect the taxpayer to foot.

“His arrogance and contempt for the public purse was clear from his refusal to follow parliament guidelines and inform IT staff that he was travelling abroad.

“This is not the end of the matter. Michael Matheson has to address the many serious unanswered questions over this scandal – having notably refused to do so when confronted by journalists on Thursday.

“We still need to hear a personal statement from the health secretary in Parliament and I call on him to publish the original roaming charges statement from the network provider.

“This also calls into question the judgment of Humza Yousaf who, just 24 hours ago, claimed that this was a legitimate expenses claim and that his health secretary shouldn’t repay a penny.”

A Scottish Parliament spokesperson previously said Mr Matheson’s data charges were investigated by the parliamentary IT office in January, reviewing the data volume consumed, daily pricing charges and the company’s application of tariffs.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

The investigation confirmed he had not updated his iPad’s sim card to the new provider as required, and did not notify the IT office before travelling, meaning the appropriate roaming package could not be applied.



Want to join the conversation? Please or to comment on this article.