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by Margaret Taylor
08 February 2024
Michael Matheson quits as health secretary

Michael Matheson has resigned from cabinet | Alamy

Michael Matheson quits as health secretary

Beleaguered health secretary Michael Matheson has resigned from his post ahead of receiving a standards report into his handling of an iPad data-roaming scandal.

Matheson repeatedly resisted calls to resign when the scandal broke at the end of last year, but has this morning tendered his resignation ahead of the publication of the findings of an investiagtion into the scandal.

Writing to First Minister Hunza Yousaf, Matheson said he had not yet receiverd the report from the Scottish Parliament Corporate Body (SPCB) but that it was "in the best interest of myself and the government for me to now step down to ensure this does not become a distraction to taking forward the government's agenda".

In his response, Yousaf said he accepted the resignation "with sadness" but said "it is right that, having requested that the Scottish Parliament Corporate Body review your data roaming charges from last year, that you fully engage with that process as it comes to its conclusion".

"I agree that it is therefore best for you to now step down to ensure you are able to give the parliamentary process the attention it deserves without it becoming a distraction to taking forward the government's agenda," he wrote.

Matheson, who was named health secretary when Yousaf succeeded Nicola Sturgeon as first minister last March, racked up a data-roaming bill of almost £11,000 while visiting Morocco with his family in December 2022.

He claimed the charges, which were for his parliamentary iPad, had been incurred doing constituency work, but later told the chamber his teenage sons had run up the bill by watching football.

The bill, which Matheson had been made aware of January last year, was initially paid for by the Scottish Parliament, but Matheson agreed to reimburse the sum from his own pocket when the story came to light in October.

At the time he said he had "reflected long and hand" and decided that that was the best course of action. 

The SPCB announced in November that it would investigate the matter, with its findings expected to be passed to Matheson imminently.

The scope of the investigation was to consider whether Matheson made an "improper claim" within the terms of rules around MSP expenses, and if he "failed to abide by" SPCB policies on the use of parliamentary resources and the MSPs' code of conduct.

Scottish Labour deputy leader Jackie Baillie welcomed the news of the resignation but said Yousaf has "big questions to answer" about why he stood by him after the scandal broke.

“While our NHS is in crisis, Humza Yousaf has shown his weakness by putting the SNP before our NHS," she said. 

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton said: “Our health service is on its knees. Patients are waiting an age for treatment and staff are overworked on every shift.

"They all deserve better than an SNP minister who has lost their trust and could no longer focus on the day job."

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