Exclusive:SNP MPs think Michael Matheson should have resigned and warn ‘the damage is done’

The health secretary has annoyed some SNP MPs who feel they are being forced to defend him.

A growing number of SNP MPs think Michael Matheson should have resigned over his £11,000 iPad bill, The Scotsman has been told, but think it is too late and the “damage is done”.

The health secretary’s use of expenses to cover the bill is being investigated by authorities at Holyrood. But several SNP figures in Westminster told The Scotsman they are furious not just at him, but how the Scottish Government has handled the incident.

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One said it was MPs who would have to deal with the immediate ramifications, as a general election looms next year, adding the situation was “completely avoidable”.

Several SNP figures expressed displeasure with Michael Matheson.Several SNP figures expressed displeasure with Michael Matheson.
Several SNP figures expressed displeasure with Michael Matheson.

They told The Scotsman: "This whole thing could have been avoided if he’d just said ‘yes, I made a mistake’ and paid it back. Instead, everyone else has to answer for him, why should I answer for him?

“When Humza Yousaf came in, there was an expectation things would be better. But instead he’s aligned himself with this and for what? Humza could have gotten ahead of this, but he's not done anything and it's embarrassing.

"SNP MPs will be the ones bearing the brunt, we're in front of the electorate first. He should be gone, he should have done the right thing and stood down, instead of blaming it on his kids.

“It's too late now, the damage is done. He should go, but it won't matter. I guarantee it's something people will be talking about for a long time.”

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. The SNP MSP for Falkirk West has now pledged to pay back the full sum.

Another SNP figure unfavourably compared the handling of the incident to former prime minister Boris Johnson, saying it “looked like we are marking our own homework”.

They said: “This idea that a vote of no confidence will draw a line under it is for the birds. He’ll win, of course he’ll win, but that doesn’t mean it’s the right thing. Winning a vote when you have the most seats doesn’t stop people mentioning something, you don’t just win the argument on a vote and it goes away”.

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However, some in SNP circles argue the controversy is exaggerated and believe it will simply blow over. One MP suggested there may be more to the story, specifically the following of security advice given to UK politicians.

They said: “It is what it is. It’s possibly been blown massively out of proportion by some folk showing misunderstanding of how basic stuff works. One of the first things digital services tells you is not to use public Wi-Fi on a parliamentary device.

“Now I have no basis for this, but one scenario I did wonder about is, if for whatever reason he [Mr Matheson] was doing work on his iPad, which as health secretary is not unreasonable, if he’d made it a hotspot and forgot about it, any device that was previously connected would automatically join. You can see a scenario where he’s doing some work and might not have realised his kids were watching stuff.

"I think people are right to ask questions, but my sense is it’s not that bad.”



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