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by Staff reporter
10 November 2023
Matheson challenged to pay £11,000 iPad data bill as Tories seek investigation

Health secretary Michael Matheson

Matheson challenged to pay £11,000 iPad data bill as Tories seek investigation

Michael Matheson must cover the cost of his £11,000 holiday data bill, opponents say.

The health secretary racked up the bill using a parliamentary iPad while on a break to Morocco last year.

He told the Scottish Parliament he had been using an "outdated sim card" and was unaware that this should have been replaced.

However, the parliament switched its contract from EE to Vodafone in December 2021 and the Scottish Parliament told reporters that the Falkirk West MSP would have been given notice of the need to change the card.

Officials attempted to challenge the charges incurred, but this was unsuccessful.

Matheson had the device for "constituency purposes" and has agreed to pay back £3000 of the sum from his expenses budget. The remainder will be paid for by the parliament, coming out of the budget for Matheson's department.

First Minister Humza Yousaf has said Matheson should not be expected to repay the sum from his own pocket.

But it has emerged that officials emailed MSPs stating that it would only meet roaming charge costs of up to £200.

Matheson said he was unaware that "costs were being incurred" because the network provider did not notify him of that and that the device "was used for constituency and parliamentary purposes".

However, Scottish Labour deputy leader Jackie Baillie and Conservative chairman Craig Hoy have called on Matheson to pay the bill himself. Hoy has also written to Presiding Officer Alison Johnstone seeking clarification on the decision-making process and requesting a personal statement from the health secretary in parliament.

Baillie said: "Mr Matheson was told repeatedly by the parliament to replace his sim. The responsibility for this lies with him.

"The time has come for Michael Matheson to do the right thing and pay up himself.

"Failure to do so will only further weaken public trust in this scandal-hit SNP government."

Hoy said: "It seems clear that it fails to meet the parliament’s own criteria for what constitutes a legitimate expense claim, and that the health secretary must pay the exorbitant fees he racked up out of his own pocket.

"The parliament set a £200 ceiling on the roaming charges it will reimburse MSPs for, while the expenses guidelines are clear that any claim must represent value for money – which this palpably does not.

"In addition, Mr Matheson appears to have ignored repeated emails from the parliament to MSPs requesting they inform the IT department if they’re travelling overseas so that an affordable package can be arranged.

"Had Mr Matheson followed correct protocols, this huge expense would have been avoided."

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