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by Louise Wilson
16 November 2023
Michael Matheson reveals £11,000 bill due to son watching football

Michael Matheson made a personal statement to the chamber | Colin Fisher / Alamy Stock Photo

Michael Matheson reveals £11,000 bill due to son watching football

Michael Matheson has admitted the £11,000 bill for iPad charges were incurred after a member of his family watched football using the device’s data.

The health secretary said he had been unaware of this use until last Thursday evening, after which he took the decision to fully reimburse parliament for the bill.

He said he had not been more forthcoming earlier in the week in a bit to “protect” his family from “political and media scrutiny”.

Matheson has referred himself to the Scottish Parliament Corporate Body for investigation under the MSP Code of Conduct.

Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross said “questions remain” over the matter, while Scottish Labour’s Jackie Baillie accused the cabinet secretary of being “wholly negligent”.

The story emerged last Wednesday that Matheson had ran up the significant bill while on a family holiday and that parliament had paid the bulk of the cost.

On Friday, Matheson confirmed he would reimburse the parliament in full out of his own pocket. He accepted at the time that the SIM card, which was out of date, “should have been replaced at an earlier stage”.

But he revealed to MSPs today that he had found out the evening before, last Thursday, that his son had made use of the data to watch an Old Firm football game.

While he insisted this was the first point at which he knew the data had not been used solely for parliamentary purposes, he said: “The responsibility for the iPad is mine. The responsibility for the data usage is mine. That is why my wife and I made the immediate decision to reimburse the parliament the full cost.”

On not revealing how the data had been used last week, Matheson said: “As a parent, I wanted to protect my family from being part of the political and media scrutiny associated with this – something I believe any parent would want to do. I am a father first and foremost.”

However, he added he had now come to the conclusion it was “not possible” to explain the data use without explaining his family’s role.

He confirmed he had referred himself to the Scottish Parliament Corporate Body to consider whether any further investigation under the MSP Code of Conduct was required.

“I hope members will accept my explanation, my self-referral under the code of conduct, and my unreserved apology,” he added.

Ross argued that it appeared Matheson had “misled” parliament over the matter, after claiming it was a “legitimate expense” while at the same time being unable to understand why the bill had been so high prior to finding out about his son’s data use.

Matheson said he’s put £3,000 from his office budget towards the £11,000 bill as part of an agreement with parliament when officials were unable to ascertain how the bill had become so high.

Baillie said that while “anyone who has had teenage children will understand what has happened, but what people will not understand is the cover-up”.

She said the failure to replace the SIM was “wholly negligent” and his statements were found to be “wholly incorrect”. “There is a serious question of judgement here, she added.

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