SNP minister's £7,345 iPad bill in a SINGLE day

SNP minister’s £7,345 iPad bill in a SINGLE day (and he still claims the charges were all related to work – despite it being a bank holiday)

  • Michael Matheson was forced to pay back a total of £11,000 after running up roaming charges in Morocco and trying to bill taxpayer
  • New documents showed he ran up a staggering £7,345 bill on January 2 on constituency work – despite it being a bank holiday 

Scotland’s beleaguered Health Secretary ran up an astonishing £7,300 data roaming bill in a single day.

The extraordinary claim for ­January 2 formed the bulk of Michael Matheson’s £11,000 total bill for using his parliamentary iPad while on holiday in Morocco.

He yesterday refused to explain what parliamentary duties he was doing on a bank holiday when MSPs’ constituency offices would normally be closed and their staff would not be working.

The avid football fan was also urged to ­confirm whether he used the device to watch any matches that day, including the Old Firm fixture.

It comes as Humza Yousaf and ­Scottish parliament bosses were accused of a ‘whitewash’ after they refused to investigate the full reasons for the eye-watering bill.

Michael Matheson continues to duck questions about bill

Mr Matheson initially charged it to taxpayers until he was shamed into repaying it following a public outcry last week. 

The First Minister yesterday claimed the case is ‘closed’, just hours before a breakdown of Mr Matheson’s bill was revealed.

It showed that 3.18 gigabytes (GB) of data was used on January 2 – ­equivalent to just over two hours of streaming on an application such as SkyGo – which cost £7,345. Mr Matheson is set to face  a no confidence vote in the coming days unless he agrees to hand over the iPad for further inspection to find out what the data was used for.

Scottish Conservative chairman 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 SIX questions he must answer 

■ What constituency work was Michael Matheson supposedly doing to rack up an £11,000 bill?

■ How did Mr Matheson use 3.18GB of mobile data – costing £7,345 – on January 2, a public holiday?

■ Can he confirm that he, or his family members, did not watch the Rangers v Celtic Old Firm derby or any other football match on his iPad that day?

■ How did he convince parliament officials to make taxpayers pay his entire bill despite their policy of making MSPs pay for roaming charges over £200?

■ Did he provide any evidence about his iPad use to Humza Yousaf before the First Minister declared it was a ‘legitimate parliamentary expense’ that did not need to be paid back?

■ Will Mr Matheson now hand over his iPad to Holyrood officials so its browsing history during his holiday to Morocco can be properly investigated?

‘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.’

Yesterday, Mr Yousaf said he had ‘absolute and full confidence’ in Mr Matheson and claimed ‘we have drawn a line under the ­matter and the case is closed’.

Holyrood’s ­Presiding Officer, Alison Johnstone, refused to open an investigation into the issue, with officials saying that the Scottish Parliament Corporate Body (SPCB) is satisfied as ‘written assurances were sought and received that all use was for parliamentary purposes’.

Mr Hoy said: ‘This looks like a whitewash from both the parliament and the First Minister. 

The Presiding Officer’s reluctance to conduct an investigation into the parliament’s acceptance of Michael Matheson’s assurance that the charges were the result only of constituency work is baffling, given the size of the claim.

‘Humza Yousaf’s insistence that the issue is closed, because Mr Matheson was belatedly shamed into paying back the £11,000, is absurd.

‘His Health Secretary has huge questions to answer – and the First Minister should be demanding he respond to them.’

The breakdown published by the Scottish parliament showed that the data was used between December 28, 2022, and January 3, 2023.

The largest amount of data was used on January 2, when the £7,345 bill was racked up on 3.18GB of data, followed by a £2,249 bill on 1.26GB of data on December 28.

A further £1,320 charge was listed as a separate entry for January 2 for 711 megabytes of data.

It is not yet known if the fee could relate to a previous day due to a lag effect in the billing system but there is no figure listed for January 1.

Mr Matheson and the SNP refused to respond to requests for details of the specific parliamentary duties carried out on the iPad on January 2, and refused to say if he watched the Old Firm fixture or any other football matches on the device.

It is understood Mr Matheson may give a statement at Holyrood today providing further detail on what parliamentary work he carried out.

Scottish Labour deputy leader Jackie Baillie said: ‘This is a ­phenomenal own goal from Michael Matheson.

‘Mr Matheson must come clean over whether he or his family used his ­parliamentary devices to watch the football before his actions blow the full-time whistle on his ministerial career.’

Conservative MSP Stephen Kerr said: ‘Is it a coincidence that Celtic played Rangers on that date? Was he expecting us to believe that his constituency office was open on a public ­holiday? This all stinks to the high heavens. Matheson must resign because this isn’t going to go away.’

Humza Yousaf has been described as being arrogant in defending his ‘friend’

Ms Johnstone had been urged to launch a full investigation into the case after officials accepted assurances from Mr Matheson that the data was used for his parliamentary duties. 

But she launched a review which included disabling sim cards, a mandatory opt-in to data roaming bundles and personal liability for MSPs where parliament’s procedures have not been followed.

Mr Matheson failed to tell parliament IT officials he was taking the device to Morocco, and his bill was even higher because he was using an old sim card.

Ms Johnstone said: ‘The member himself has acknowledged he failed to update his sim card and incurred significant charges, which he has now agreed to meet in full.

‘The review will give officials and the SPCB greater ability to intervene where members have not followed guidance.

‘The SPCB recognises that members are the elected ­representatives of their ­constituents and privacy and confidentiality is fundamental to that relationship.’

Ms Johnstone added: ‘We must be in a position where we have reviewed and tightened all ­policies to ensure the present situation ­cannot happen again.’

Mr Matheson also faced ­criticism this week after he ducked interviews and steered clear of Holyrood on Tuesday – the day figures showed A&E performance had hit its lowest level since January.

The Health Secretary rejected media requests to discuss his winter plan for the NHS, after figures showed a sharp decline in the proportion seen within four hours at emergency wards.

It led to accusations that the controversy over his data ­roaming bill is impacting on his day job in charge of the NHS.

Figures for the week ending November 5 show only 60.9 per cent (15,129) of patients were seen within four hours – the ­lowest since the first week in January, when the NHS was in the grip of a winter crisis.

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