Investigation launched into Michael Matheson iPad expense claim
Heath secretary Michael Matheson will be investigated by Scottish Parliament authorities over his £11,000 iPad data row.
Matheson is under continued pressure over a five-figure bill for data roaming charges incurred while using a Scottish Parliament device during a holiday in Morocco.
The costs were initially placed on expenses but Matheson has since said he will pay them from his own pocket.
He gave a statement to parliament last week, telling the chamber that other members of his family had used the device's data. He had initially said all usage was linked to parliamentary duties but subsequently said some data was used to watch football.
The SIM card on the iPad had not been updated despite a switch by the Scottish Parliament to another data provider and Matheson stated he had referred himself to the Scottish Parliament Corporate Body (SPCB) for investigation under the MSP Code of Conduct.
However, it was later confirmed that MSPs cannot self-refer in this way.
Now the SPCB has announced it is to investigate whether the claim for public money was "proper".
If he is found to have breached the rules, Matheson could face the loss of expenses privileges.
A parliament spokesperson said: "The SPCB met this morning to consider its next steps with regard to Michael Matheson’s statement to parliament last week.
"While, as previously made clear, there is no mechanism for members to self-refer to the SPCB, the corporate body has a vital interest in the integrity of the members' expenses scheme, the principle that SPCB-funded resources are used for parliamentary purposes and that there is public confidence in these matters.
"The Corporate Body will therefore undertake an investigation in line with its duties under the MSP Code of Conduct.
"The investigation will consider whether the claims for £11,000 of public money, incurred through data roaming charges, were proper and met the requirements of the scheme and whether resources were used for parliamentary purposes in accordance with all SPCB policies.
"The SPCB will seek to conclude its investigation promptly and its findings in fact, will be published."
Members found to have submitted "improper" expense claims can be reported by the SPCB to the Standards, Procedures and Public Appointments Committee, which can recommend the removal of entitlement to reimbursement of expenses for a specified period of time and to a level it sets out.
The spokesperson said: "In the interest of fairness to all, and to avoid prejudicing its investigation, the SPCB will, as of now, not comment on any matters that could have a bearing on this process or provide a running commentary.
"It is important to stress however that the corporate body remains wholly committed to openness and transparency and will release all material it can, when it can, in line with its legal obligations."
Matheson welcomed the move, saying: "Of course, I will fully cooperate with their [SPCB] investigation and it wouldn't appropriate for me to comment further."
Scottish Labour deputy leader Jackie Baillie said: "We cannot have the people of Scotland failed by a distracted health secretary who is more interested in protecting his ministerial salary than protecting our NHS. It is clear that Michael Matheson must go and allow a new health secretary to focus on the crisis in our NHS."
Matheson stated: "I am fully focussed on my job as health secretary and steering the NHS through what will be a challenging winter period."