Tuesday 14 November 2023
By Bill Heaney
The Scottish Conservatives have today issued an ultimatum to embattled health secretary Michael Matheson: hand over your iPad and finally answer key questions or face a vote of no confidence.
Party leader Douglas Ross insists Mr Matheson must ask Scottish Parliament IT experts to examine the device’s browser history, as it’s the only definitive means of proving his claim that the £11,000 roaming charge bill from his holiday in Morocco was solely accrued on parliamentary duties.
The health secretary – who belatedly agreed to foot the whole bill last week, having originally claimed it on expenses – told journalists yesterday that the parliamentary authorities had investigated the matter fully earlier this year.
But a statement from the parliament yesterday confirmed that their probe was limited to confirming the extent of data usage and that they had received only “assurances” that the bill was run up as a result of the minister working exclusively on parliamentary duties.
Douglas Ross says “suspicions will linger” over Mr Matheson’s claims unless and until he can prove them.
Tory leader Douglas Ross says Health Secretary Micheal Matheson has questions to answer.
He has, therefore, warned that the Scottish Conservatives will table a no-confidence motion if the health secretary continues to reject calls to hand over his iPad and make a personal statement in the chamber.
Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross said: “This scandal has dragged on for several days now and Michael Matheson is looking shiftier with each one that passes.
“He still has serious questions to answer, and suspicions will linger for as long as he fails to prove his claim that the enormous tab he expected taxpayers to foot was the product solely of parliamentary work.
“Despite his woolly words to journalists on Monday, it’s clear the Scottish Parliament officials have not examined the browser history of his iPad.
“That’s the only way Mr Matheson’s claims can be verified, so you’d think he’d be rushing to hand it over in order to prove that there was no personal usage.
“We need to get to the bottom of this saga once and for all, so the Scottish Conservatives are issuing the health secretary with an ultimatum: hand over the iPad, for the browsing history to be checked, and deliver a personal statement in parliament explaining the full circumstances or we’ll table a motion of no confidence.
“This is about the integrity of a senior SNP cabinet minister. Twice Michael Matheson has appeared before journalists, and twice he has failed to give coherent answers to key questions. He must do so now.”
Scottish Parliament standing orders require a motion of no confidence to be held if such a motion is supported by 25 individual MSPs. Rule 8.12 of the Scottish Parliament standing orders state: ‘Any member may give notice of a motion that the Scottish Government or a member of the Scottish Government or a junior Scottish Minister no longer enjoys the confidence of the Parliament… If notice of a motion of no confidence is supported by at least 25 members, it shall be included in a proposed business programme.’ (Scottish Parliament standing orders, 4 May 2023, link).
Following inquiries from journalists in the wake of Mr Matheson’s comments on Monday, a Scottish Parliament spokesperson said: “We did not look at the browsing history. This would not have showed data volumes consumed. We were primarily looking at volume of mobile data consumed as we had assurances it was for parliamentary purposes.”