Michael Matheson breached two sections of MSP code of conduct over £11k iPad bill, report finds

Former health secretary Michael Matheson has been urged to resign after the publication of a review into the scandal around his £11,000 iPad data roaming bill

Michael Matheson could be suspended from the Scottish Parliament after he was found to have committed multiple breaches of the MSP code of conduct, having wrongly claimed almost £11,000 for a parliamentary iPad bill.

The former health secretary’s fate now rests with Holyrood’s standards, procedures and public appointments committee, which could recommend he be suspended for breaching the code.

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The Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body (SPCB) published its findings on Thursday, but said its full report would be released after consideration by the standards committee.

Former health secretary Michael Matheson leaves the main chamber after First Minster's Questions at the Scottish Parliament. He is pictured alongside his replacement in the health portfolio, Neil Gray. Picture: Jane Barlow/PA WireFormer health secretary Michael Matheson leaves the main chamber after First Minster's Questions at the Scottish Parliament. He is pictured alongside his replacement in the health portfolio, Neil Gray. Picture: Jane Barlow/PA Wire
Former health secretary Michael Matheson leaves the main chamber after First Minster's Questions at the Scottish Parliament. He is pictured alongside his replacement in the health portfolio, Neil Gray. Picture: Jane Barlow/PA Wire

Opposition parties in Holyrood say Mr Matheson must now “do the right thing” and resign as an MSP. The Falkirk West MSP stepped down as health secretary last month, citing the ongoing parliamentary investigation into the bill as the reason.

A statement from the SPCB said: “The SPCB decided that, based on the evidence presented in the investigation report and its findings in fact, Mr Matheson had breached sections 7.3 and 7.4 of the code of conduct and thereby upheld the three complaints within the SPCB’s remit.

“While the costs to the public purse had been addressed, the SPCB agreed that the Nolan principles of standards in public life, embedded in the scheme and underpinning the appropriate use of parliamentary resources, represented the high standard by which all members must abide and in which the SPCB considered the public must continue to have confidence.”

The report will now be referred to Holyrood’s standards committee to consider if the former minister should be sanctioned.

A spokesperson for Mr Matheson said: “It would not be appropriate to comment while the matter is being considered by the standards committee.”

Scottish Conservatives chairman Craig Hoy called for Mr Matheson to resign as an MSP following what he described as a “devastating and damning” report.

He said: “It is little wonder he was shamefully stalling for time on its publication given he has been found to have breached the MSP code of conduct multiple times. This amounts to the most serious of charges against any elected member and Mr Matheson must do the right thing and resign as an MSP now.

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“He must also confirm that he will not take a penny of his ministerial severance pay given what the report has found.”

Mr Hoy said First Minister Humza Yousaf must also “urgently explain” why he backed Mr Matheson for so long, when the public “saw through the repeated lies from the outset”.

Scottish Labour said the report’s findings showed Mr Yousaf was “complicit” in Mr Matheson’s attempt to mislead Parliament.

Mr Yousaf had publicly backed Mr Matheson and had refused to sack him from his frontbench team.

At the time, the First Minister gave Mr Matheson – a close ally with years of ministerial experience – his full backing. He said he was a man of integrity and honesty, who had made a mistake. But following his resignation, Mr Yousaf said it was right that Mr Matheson had stepped aside to avoid the issue becoming a “distraction”.

Dame Jackie Baillie MSP, Scottish Labour’s deputy leader, said: “The conclusions of this long-running investigation is to be welcomed, but the findings pose serious questions for the First Minister and the SNP Government.

“The fact is that Humza Yousaf and senior ministers were complicit in Michael Matheson’s attempt to mislead the Parliament.

“This is a serious error of judgement. Appropriate action must be taken against Mr Matheson.”

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Scottish Lib Dem leader Alex Cole-Hamilton added: “At best the First Minister was extremely gullible about the conduct of his former health secretary, at worst he was complicit in covering it up.

“It is vital that we now let the standards committee do its work and consider an appropriate sanction.”

Mr Matheson racked up the bill in data roaming charges on his parliamentary iPad while on a family holiday to Morocco over the Christmas holidays in 2022. Initially he had claimed this on expenses, saying he had been using the iPad for legitimate parliamentary business.

However, once details of the bill were made public, he was later forced to admit his sons had used the iPad to stream football matches.

Mr Matheson said he had only discovered the truth the week before and had kept quiet to protect his children.

However, he was accused of misleading journalists after denying there was any personal use of the device.

He agreed to pay back this money from his own funds following an emotional statement made at Holyrood where he admitted to his sons’ use of the device for the first time. The MSP has faced numerous calls to resign over the scandal, and the First Minister was also urged to sack him as health secretary.

Last month he resigned and was replaced in the health brief by one of Mr Yousaf’s key ministerial allies, Neil Gray.

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Following his resignation, Mr Matheson was told it would be “outrageous” to accept a near £13,000 severance package and was pressured to rule out receiving the golden goodbye.

At the time, his successor Mr Gray said it was Mr Matheson’s “right” to receive ministerial severance pay, but would not say whether or not he should take the money.

The report found Mr Matheson had breached section 7.4 of the code, which states: “No improper use should be made of any payment or allowance made to members for public purposes.

“Members must abide by the reimbursement of members’ expenses scheme agreed by the Parliament.”

The report also found Mr Matheson had broken section 7.3, which states: “Members must abide by the policies that are adopted by the SPCB.”

The SPCB said its report, including all annexes, would be published in line with its legal obligations once Holyrood’s standards committee had completed its considerations.

Mr Matheson had been given ten more days to respond to the findings of the parliamentary probe that led to his resignation after last month requesting a time extension.

Mr Matheson has been an MSP ever since devolution in 1999.

He was the MSP for Central Scotland until 2007, and since the SNP came to power he has been the MSP for the Falkirk West constituency.

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The senior SNP figure has held numerous Cabinet positions, including health minister between 2011 and 2014, justice secretary from 2014 until 2018, transport, infrastructure and connectivity secretary from 2018 until 2021, net zero, energy and transport secretary from 2021 until 2023, and health secretary from 2023 until his resignation last month.

Scottish Conservatives leader Douglas Ross has previously said there would be "serious questions" about Mr Matheson's future as an MSP if the Holyrood report concluded he misled the Scottish Parliament's top officials.

Mr Ross said last month the finding, which has now been reached in the SPCB report, would be "unforgivable".



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