Scotland’s health secretary – who tried to bill taxpayers almost £11,000 after a data roaming blunder during a Moroccan holiday – still has “serious unanswered questions to address”, the Scottish Tories have insisted.
Craig Hoy, chairman of the Scottish Conservatives, is calling on Michael Matheson to make a statement to Holyrood “so that we can get to the bottom of this scandal”.
Mr Hoy is also urging the Falkirk West MSP to hand his parliamentary iPad over to authorities so its record of use can be independently verified.
Last Friday, Mr Matheson said he would reimburse the full cost of the thousands of pounds in data roaming charges he racked up.
But now Mr Hoy, MSP for South Scotland, has said: “When Michael Matheson was belatedly shamed into repaying the staggering sum that he had the audacity to expect the taxpayer to foot, he told us that his integrity matters.
“Therefore, he must immediately hand over his iPad so that parliament authorities can verify his claim that he only incurred roaming charges related to parliamentary business during his Moroccan holiday.
“Mr Matheson has many serious unanswered questions to address, which is why I have written to him requesting that he make a statement at Holyrood this week so that we can get to the bottom of this scandal.
“A failure to answer these questions will further add to the public’s suspicion that Michael Matheson has something to hide over this scandal.”
Mr Matheson took the parliamentary iPad with him on a week-long visit to Morocco with his family around Christmas last year.
He racked up £10,935.74 in data roaming charges after failing to switch over from Holyrood’s old mobile contract to a new one.
Mr Matheson initially agreed to pay £3,000 towards the cost from his expenses budget. As the data use was reportedly for parliamentary business, the Scottish parliament agreed to pay the rest.
The incident sparked a public outcry, with both Scottish Labour and the Scottish Conservatives calling for Mr Matheson to foot the “eye-watering bill” instead of taxpayers.
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Sky News contacted Mr Matheson for clarification on a number of unanswered questions, including whether the iPad was solely used for constituency and parliamentary purposes or had been used to stream entertainment.
Mr Matheson, who failed to notify the Scottish parliament’s IT department of his trip which would have allowed the appropriate roaming package to be applied, was also questioned over reports he was told in February 2022 to swap out the old SIM card.
Mr Matheson did not respond to Sky News’ queries but later announced that he would pay the full bill out of his own pocket.
The health secretary, who has an annual salary of £118,511, said he had “reflected long and hard” and accepted that the SIM card should have been replaced at an earlier stage.
He added: “Much of the speculation in the past couple of days has questioned my integrity, and I take this extremely seriously.
“I take equally seriously the reputation of the Scottish parliament, of which I have always striven to be a diligent member since its restoration in 1999.
“It is my decision to reimburse these costs in full, which I believe in all the circumstances to be the right one.”
Mr Matheson was the net zero, energy and transport secretary in Nicola Sturgeon’s government at the time.
He was appointed health secretary earlier this year under First Minister Humza Yousaf.
‘If you refuse to disclose this information, it will be clear that you have something to hide’
In his letter to Mr Matheson, Mr Hoy urged the health secretary to publish all correspondence with the Scottish parliament on the “expensing of the roaming charges and regarding the need to upgrade the iPad’s SIM card”.
Mr Matheson has also been asked to set out what steps have been taken to “protect public money and keep costs low in line with the value for money requirements set out in the official expenses policy”.
Mr Hoy wrote: “Your belated commitment to pay for these roaming charges in full should not distract from the fact that such a large bill does not represent value for money for the taxpayer which is why it is important that these key questions are answered.
“If you refuse to disclose this information, it will be clear that you have something to hide and are covering up the truth from taxpayers about how you spent their money and will lead to questions about your motivations for withholding this information.
“It is therefore incumbent on you to answer these questions as soon as possible and I hope you are able to do so this week.”