09 February 2024

Matheson urged to reject £13,000 severance pay after quitting amid iPad bill row

09 February 2024

The public will be “outraged” if former health secretary Michael Matheson accepts a severance payment of almost £13,000, Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross has said.

Mr Matheson resigned from the Scottish Government role on Thursday following months of scrutiny over his parliamentary iPad bill of almost £11,000.

He racked up the charges while holidaying in Morocco over Christmas in 2022, later conceding his sons had used the device as a hotspot to watch football.

He initially claimed the hefty bill on parliamentary expenses, saying the device had only been used for parliamentary work, before paying the money back in full when the charges came to light publicly in November.

The Scottish Conservatives had urged First Minister Humza Yousaf to sack Mr Matheson when the row first erupted last year.

Mr Matheson will receive a resettlement grant of 25% of his final ministerial salary of £50,849 – meaning he will be paid a £12,712 severance fee.

Mr Ross said on Friday that the “disgraced” ex-minister – who held a number of ministerial posts in his almost 13 years in government – should not accept the payment.

He said: “It’s very important Michael Matheson refuses to take his severance payment – that’s over £12,000.

“I think the public would be appalled if he were to accept that money given the way he continued disgraced in office for several months and the way he finally had to resign.

“I hope that he at some stage in the whole sorry saga does the right thing and either refuses to accept that money or pays it back.”

Mr Matheson’s resignation came ahead of the outcome of an investigation by the Scottish Parliament Corporate Body into his expenses claim to cover the iPad charges.

The report is expected to be published in the coming weeks, with Mr Ross also calling into question Mr Matheson’s future as an MSP depending on the outcome.

He said: “I think there is an extremely strong case for the standards committee, or any other mechanism, to look at Michael Matheson’s conduct, not just as a government minister but as an individual, now backbench, MSP.

“If there is new evidence that’s come to light, that is extremely serious.”

He also condemned Mr Matheson’s resignation letter to the First Minister, arguing it failed to make a “single word of apology”.

He added: “In fact, he said the only reasons he was resigning was for the benefit of himself and the Scottish Government – not the Scottish people who have been so badly let down and the taxpayers he expected to pay thousands of pounds for his own iPad bill.

“I think people would be rightly outraged if Michael Matheson accepted that severance payment.”

In his resignation letter, Mr Matheson said: “It is in the best interest of myself and the Government for me to now step down to ensure this does not become a distraction to taking forward the Government’s agenda.”

The SNP has been asked for comment.

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