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by Kirsteen Paterson
15 March 2024
Suspend Michael Matheson now, Douglas Ross tells Humza Yousaf

Michael Matheson MSP | Alamy

Suspend Michael Matheson now, Douglas Ross tells Humza Yousaf

Humza Yousaf must suspend Michael Matheson from the SNP for breaching MSP rules over his £11,000 data bill claim, Douglas Ross has said.

Matheson hung on as health secretary despite public outcry late last year over his decision to claim five-figure data roaming charges on expenses.

The charges came after a parliament-issued iPad was used while Matheson was on holiday with his family in Morocco and he said his sons had used the device to watch football without his knowledge.

Despite initially stating he did not know the reason for the high charge, Matheson stepped down from his cabinet post last month amidst an enquiry by the Scottish Parliament Corporate Body (SPCB).

On Thursday it reported that Matheson had breached the MSPs' code of conduct and members of the cross-party Standards, Procedures and Public Appointments Committee will now determine whether Matheson should face sanction.

The first minister stood by Matheson over the bill despite calls for his sacking, describing him as a "man on integrity". 

Ross, leader of the Scottish Conservatives, has now written to Yousaf, saying he should "belatedly show firm leadership" and suspended the MSP from the SNP.

In the letter, Ross compares Matheson to fellow SNP MSP Fergus Ewing, who was suspended for a week after voting against Scottish Greens minister Lorna Slater in a motion of no confidence.

Slater survived that vote, which was held after the deposit return scheme was paused due to problems with internal UK market rules.

Ross wrote: "While you have defended your close friend and colleague throughout this scandal it is clear to many that Michael Matheson should not continue to have your support through maintaining the SNP whip at Holyrood. 

"You decided to punish Fergus Ewing by removing the SNP whip from him after he voted for a Scottish Conservative motion of no confidence in the Green minister Lorna Slater."

He continued: "I would suggest that lying to the public about trying to claim £11,000 from the public purse is significantly more serious than voting against a disastrous Green minister so the only correct course of action is to remove the SNP whip from Michael Matheson immediately."

SNP MSPs voted to suspend Ewing in September. He lost a subsequent appeal and his week-long suspension was handed down last month.

The SPCB found Matheson, who repaid the expense bill, was in breach of two sections of the MSPs' code of conduct.

He initially told journalists there had been no personal usage of his parliamentary device, but later retracted this in an emotional statement in the chamber.

Offering an apology, he said: "The responsibility for the iPad is mine. The responsibility for the data usage is mine."

Labour and the Lib Dems have also said "appropriate" action should be taken against him.

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