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by Louise Wilson
09 February 2024
‘Serious questions’ about Michael Matheson’s future as MSP says Douglas Ross

Michael Matheson resigned as health secretary on Thursday | Alamy

‘Serious questions’ about Michael Matheson’s future as MSP says Douglas Ross

There are “serious questions” about Michael Matheson’s future as an MSP if the parliamentary probe into the £11,000 data roaming bill concludes he misled the presiding officer, Douglas Ross has said.

The former health secretary quit government on Thursday, months after the issue came to light, stating he no longer wanted to be a “distraction”.

At the time he said he had not yet seen the outcome of the parliament’s investigation into his conduct though the MSP has now been sent the draft.

Reports on Friday suggest the investigation has found Matheson may have misled Alison Johnstone, the parliament’s presiding officer, during a meeting about the issue.

The Scottish Tory leader said this was an “extremely serious allegation”.

He added: “That would be appalling, it would be unforgivable and does raise serious questions about his future in politics.”

Ross was in Edinburgh to launch his party’s new health policy paper alongside his health spokesperson Sandesh Gulhane.

During his speech, Ross said Matheson had been “more interested in saving his own job than saving the health service” and said there were questions for the first minister to answer relating to why he allowed Matheson to remain in post.

He called for the full report by the Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body (SPCB) to be published.

Speaking to journalists afterwards, Ross said there was a “strong case” for the Standards Committee to consider next steps, including possible sanction, based on what is already known about the matter.

He added: “He made a false claim for thousands of pounds of taxpayers’ money, that is extremely serious, and that allegation does not go away simply because he’s resigned from government.

“I think it’s also very important that Michael Matheson refuses to take his severance payment. That over £12,000 – I think the public would be appalled if he were to accept that money.”

Under legislation, any minister leaving office is entitled to three months of their salary. That equates to £12,712.

Matheson’s roaming bill, which he ultimately agreed to pay back, was £10,935.

The SPCB agreed its provisional findings yesterday which had been handed to Matheson. He will have up to two weeks to respond.

A Scottish Parliament spokesperson said: “The parliamentary investigation process is ongoing. The SPCB remains committed to openness and transparency and will release all material it can, when it can, in line with its legal obligations.”

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