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Former Scottish health secretary breached rules over £11,000 iPad bill, inquiry concludes

Former health secretary Michael Matheson breached the MSP code of conduct in relation to his £11,000 iPad data roaming bill, a Scottish parliament body has concluded.

Mr Matheson stepped down from his cabinet position last month, citing the Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body (SPCB) investigation as the reason.

Publishing its findings on Thursday, the SPCB said its full report would be released after consideration by Holyrood’s standards committee.

Mr Matheson was found to have breached clauses of the MSP code of conduct which say members must “abide by the policies” of the SPCB and that “no improper use should be made of any payment or allowance made to members for public purposes”.

The SPCB said: “The SPCB decided that, based on the evidence presented in the investigation report and its findings in fact, Mr Matheson had breached sections 7.3 and 7.4 of the code of conduct and thereby upheld the three complaints within the SPCB’s remit.

“While the costs to the public purse had been addressed, the SPCB agreed that the Nolan Principles of Standards in Public Life, embedded in the scheme and underpinning the appropriate use of parliamentary resources, represented the high standard by which all members must abide and in which the SPCB considered the public must continue to have confidence.” 

The report will be referred to the Standards, Procedures and Public Appointments Committee to consider if the Falkirk West MSP should be sanctioned.

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The cross-party body in charge of the Scottish parliament launched an investigation in November after Mr Matheson took the parliamentary iPad with him on a week-long visit to Morocco with his family around Christmas in 2022.

His roaming charges for the iPad – not phone calls – totalled nearly £11,000 and were initially paid for by taxpayers after Mr Matheson claimed he racked up the eye-watering invoice undertaking constituency work during the trip.

Mr Matheson – who as Scotland’s cabinet secretary for NHS recovery, health and social care had an annual salary of £118,511 – later agreed to pay the money back to the Scottish parliament.

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Mr Matheson’s sons racked up the £11,000 iPad bill

After the story hit the headlines, it then emerged his teenage sons had used the iPad as a hotspot to watch football while on the family vacation.

Mr Matheson was the net zero, energy and transport secretary in Nicola Sturgeon’s government at the time of the incident.

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Mr Matheson, who was appointed health secretary last March when Humza Yousaf became first minister, told Holyrood he was unaware that his sons had used the iPad as a hotspot when he initially submitted the bill.

He claimed he was told the truth by his wife after the story sparked a public outcry.

Following his wife’s admission, Mr Matheson initially failed to publicly mention his sons’ involvement. Instead, he continued to insist the iPad was only used for parliamentary work and blamed an outdated SIM card for the excessive bill.

When questioned by journalists days after he knew the truth, he continued to deny the iPad was used for personal use until he made a statement to Holyrood.

Mr Matheson tendered his resignation as health secretary last month before officially receiving the findings of SPCB’s review.

He said it was in the “best interest” of himself and the Scottish government to step down to ensure it “does not become a distraction to taking forward the government’s agenda”.

In response, the first minister said he accepted Mr Matheson’s resignation “with sadness”.

Craig Hoy, chairman of the Scottish Conservatives, said it was a “devastating and damning report”.

He added: “This amounts to the most serious of charges against any elected member and Mr Matheson must do the right thing and resign as an MSP now.

“He must also confirm that he will not take a penny of his ministerial severance pay given what the report has found.

“The public saw through the repeated lies from the outset and now they have been fully exposed.

“Humza Yousaf also must urgently explain why he backed his former cabinet colleague for so long, rather than sacking him when his lies were first uncovered.”

A spokesperson for Mr Matheson said it would “not be appropriate to comment” while the matter is being considered by the standards committee.

Sky News Source