14 March 2024

Matheson did breach Holyrood rules over iPad bill, inquiry concludes

14 March 2024

Former Scottish health secretary Michael Matheson has been found to have breached the MSPs’ code of conduct in relation to the near-£11,000 bill he racked up on a parliamentary iPad.

Mr Matheson stepped down from his Cabinet post last month, citing the ongoing parliamentary investigation into the bill as the reason.

The Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body (SPCB) published its findings on Thursday – but said its full report will be released after consideration by Holyrood’s Standards Committee.

The body said: “The SPCB decided that, based on the evidence presented in the investigation report and its findings in fact, Mr Matheson had breached sections 7.3 and 7.4 of the code of conduct and thereby upheld the three complaints within the SPCB’s remit.

“While the costs to the public purse had been addressed, the SPCB agreed that the Nolan Principles of Standards in Public Life, embedded in the scheme and underpinning the appropriate use of parliamentary resources, represented the high standard by which all members must abide and in which the SPCB considered the public must continue to have confidence.”

The report will be referred to the Standards, Procedures and Public Appointments Committee to consider if the former minister should be sanctioned.

The SPCB – which made no recommendations as to potential punishment – said the full report, including annexes, will be published after the committee’s consideration.

Mr Matheson was found to have breached clauses of the MSP code of conduct which say members must “abide by the policies” of the SPCB and that “no improper use should be made of any payment or allowance made to members for public purposes”.

Initially, Mr Matheson used his MSP expenses and office costs to cover the bill, before resolving to pay it himself following pressure from the opposition and the public.

In an emotional statement in Holyrood last year, the then health secretary said the costs had been incurred by his teenage sons, who had used the parliamentary iPad as a wifi hotspot to watch football during a holiday in Morocco.

Mr Matheson had initially told journalists there had been no personal use of the device.

Scottish Labour deputy leader Dame Jackie Baillie said “appropriate action” must be taken against the former health secretary.

“The conclusion of this long running investigation is to be welcomed, but the findings pose serious questions for the First Minister and the SNP Government,” she said.

“The fact is that (First Minister) Humza Yousaf and senior ministers were complicit in Michael Matheson’s attempt to mislead the Parliament.

“This is a serious error of judgment.

“Appropriate action must be taken against Mr Matheson.”

While Scottish Lib Dem leader said the First Minister was at best “extremely gullible” about Mr Matheson’s actions and “at worst he was complicit in covering it up”.

The best videos delivered daily

Watch the stories that matter, right from your inbox