Health Secretary still has ‘serious questions to answer’ over iPad scandal
Michael Matheson has been told he still has “serious questions to answer” despite Police Scotland ditching a probe into his £11,000 iPad bill. The SNP Health Minister racked up the invoice during a trip to Morocco last Christmas.
He insists he only used the device for parliamentary business but critics have questioned his account of what happened. It has also emerged that Holyrood bosses took his word for it that the iPad had not been used for other purposes rather than checking it.
The bill was initially to be paid for by taxpayers through Mr Matheson’s office and the Scottish Parliament. However, the MSP eventually said he would stump up the cash himself.
Police Scotland confirmed on Tuesday that it had received a complaint about the bill relating to an alleged fraud before saying it would take no further action just hours later.
But Scottish Conservative chairman Craig Hoy MSP confirmed his party could still force a vote of no confidence if it did not receive an adequate explanation.
He called on the Minister to hand over his iPad to Holyrood officials to have it checked and determine how the bill was racked up. Mr Hoy confirmed he had written to Presiding Officer Alison Johnstone asking if there would be an investigation.
Speaking to BBC Radio Scotland on Wednesday, Mr Hoy said: “I think the health secretary has some very serious questions to answer.”
He said the Tories will force through a vote of no confidence if he “doesn’t do one simple thing”.
He added: “We have to wonder why he won’t do this simple thing. Why will Michael Matheson not hand over his iPad so that parliamentary authorities can independently verify that the £11,000 that he wanted Scottish taxpayers to pay for his roaming charges whilst he was arraigned by a pool in Morocco were actually legitimately run up on constituency matters?”
Mr Hoy said the fact Mr Matheson had finally agreed to pay the bill himself was “academic”, adding: “He said that he had thought long and hard about whether to pay the money back. Yes, he did. He thought all the way through February, March, April, May, June, July, August, September and October.
“And he only decided to pay the money back when this issue hit the newspapers and when the Scottish Conservatives rightly drew attention to it. Michael Matheson has some very clear questions to answer.”
Mr Matheson has blamed the bill on his failure to switch his old parliamentary SIM to his new one on his iPad before he visited northwest Africa. However, he has tried to dodge questions on the issue and his claim that parliamentary staff had access to “all of the data on the iPad” has been questioned by officials who said it has “reviewed the iPad’s mobile data settings and data use”.
A spokesperson added that “the device does not provide a breakdown of data over a specific time-frame” and instead the official merely “observed a cumulative total, which accrues over the lifetime of the device.”
Craig Hoy said: “The release of Michael Matheson’s data usage while he was sunning himself in Morocco is utterly jaw-dropping.
“It only further highlights the serious questions the SNP health secretary has miserably failed to answer since this scandal first broke.
“The breakdown of charges demonstrates the arrogance of Humza Yousaf in defending his friend and insisting the matter is closed.
“Speculation will now go into overdrive as to how Michael Matheson racked up this £11,000 roaming bill and whether he was viewing non-political material, particularly on January 2 – a public holiday – when the usage sky-rocketed.
“The only way he will allay the suspicion and rumours is by handing over his iPad so that the browser history can be examined and his claim that the charges were accrued only on parliamentary work can be verified.
“Serious questions remain too for Parliamentary authorities as well when they took Michael Matheson at his word over this eye-watering bill. These charges clearly go against guidelines on expenses delivering best value for money.
“If Michael Matheson doesn’t urgently come clean, public suspicion will only grow as to what he has to hide.”