SNP minister to 'fully co-operate' with £11,000 iPad bill probe after claiming sons watched football

Scottish Health Minister Michael Matheson blamed an £11,000 iPad roaming charge on his sons watching football while on a family holiday in Morocco. Credit: PA

By Daniel Boal, ITV News Multimedia Producer

Scotland's under-fire health secretary Michael Matheson has said he will "fully co-operate" with a parliament investigation into an £11,000 roaming charge on his ministerial iPad.

He blamed the charge, which was initially paid for by public funds, on his two sons watching football on the device while on a family holiday in Morocco.

Mr Matheson has now referred himself to the Scottish Parliament Corporate Body (SPCB), who said the health secretary couldn't self-refer but would look into the matter.

He initially insisted that he had racked up the huge roaming charge by conducting parliamentary and constituency business.

But, at First Minister Questions last week, he held back tears stating he'd initially made no reference to his families involvement to "protect them from being part of the political and media scrutiny associated."

Michael Matheson told reporters that he will 'fully co-operate' with the investigation into the use of his parliamentary iPad. Credit: PA

Speaking to journalists after First Minister’s Questions on Thursday, Mr Matheson said: “I welcome the decision by the corporate body, which follows on my writing to them last week asking them to investigate this matter.

“Of course I’ll fully co-operate with their investigation and it wouldn’t be appropriate for me to comment further.”

During FMQs, First Minister Humza Yousaf accepted Mr Matheson had “absolutely” made mistakes in his handling of the matter.

But the first minister went on to accuse the Scottish Conservatives of “hypocrisy” in calling for Mr Matheson to be sacked.

After calling on Matheson to quit, Douglas Ross was reminded that the same wasn't asked of him when he failed to declare £28,000 in earnings Credit: PA

Tory leader Douglas Ross used the weekly Holyrood clash to accuse Mr Matheson of trying “to dupe the taxpayer out of £11,000”, but Mr Yousaf insisted it was an “honest mistake” though said it is “right” the SPCB should “get on with the job”.

He also attacked Mr Ross, highlighting the Tory leader previously had to apologise after failing to declare £28,000 in earnings.

Mr Yousaf said: “The point here is we didn’t call for Douglas Ross to quit.

“We accepted the point that he had made an honest mistake. The hypocrisy here that people will see through is Douglas Ross says it is fine for him to make an honest mistake but not for Michael Matheson to make an honest mistake.”

He branded that “political opportunism” by Mr Ross, who had for the second week challenged him over Mr Matheson’s iPad expenses claim.

Want a quick and expert briefing on the biggest news stories? Listen to our latest podcasts to find out What You Need To Know...

The health secretary revealed last week in an emotional statement to MSPs that his teenage sons had used the device as a hotspot to watch football during family holiday to Morocco over the Christmas break last year.

The public purse initially met the near-£11,000 bill, as Mr Matheson originally insisted the charges were due to an outdated Sim card in the device, which he said had only been used for parliamentary work.

But after saying he only learned of his sons’ use of the iPad after the row over the bill erupted, he agreed to pay back the full costs to the Scottish Parliament.

What is the SPCB?

Comprised of a presiding officer and four MSP's, the body ensures that parliament has "everything it needs to run" and to support MSPs by "enabling them to carry out their parliamentary roles".

They make decisions on budgets, staffing, accommodation and security.

The SPCB investigation could potentially result in the minister being referred to Holyrood’s Standards, Procedures and Public Appointments Committee.

The Scottish Parliament spokesperson had earlier confirmed the SPCB will investigate the matter “in line with its duties under the MSP code of conduct”.

The spokesperson added the “SPCB will seek to conclude its investigation promptly and its findings in fact will be published”.

Mr Ross pressed Mr Yousaf on whether Mr Matheson had been “telling the truth” when he repeatedly denied there had been any personal use of his iPad.

He added: “If Government ministers need to be honest, why is Michael Matheson still in a job?”

Mr Yousaf replied: “Michael Matheson accepts and admitted to this chamber that he made mistakes in the handling. He did what he did to protect his teenage boys.

“Did he make mistakes? Absolutely. Has he admitted that? Absolutely. Has he agreed to pay back the full amount? Absolutely.”