08 February 2024

Yousaf acted as ‘human shield’ for ‘disgraced’ Matheson, claims Tory leader

08 February 2024

The First Minister acted as a “human shield” in defending his “disgraced” health secretary during the row over his £11,000 iPad data roaming bill, Douglas Ross has said.

But Humza Yousaf said Michael Matheson was entitled to due process, as he accused the Conservatives of hypocrisy in raising matters of integrity.

The two leaders clashed in an angry exchange at First Minister’s Questions on Thursday, with Presiding Officer Alison Johnstone repeatedly stepping in to try and calm a rowdy debating chamber.

The weekly session took place less than an hour after Mr Matheson announced his decision to resign as health secretary, saying the row over his roaming charges had become a “distraction”.

An investigation into the bill by the Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body (SPCB) is expected to release its findings in due course.

Tory leader Mr Ross said the First Minister had previously described Mr Matheson as a “man of integrity and honesty”, and he asked if he regretted those words.

Mr Yousaf said his health secretary had made a mistake and apologised, seeking due process from the SPCB investigation.

He said: “I think someone who has served this Parliament, served his country, served the Government, not for years but for decades – he should be afforded that due process.”

The SNP leader said it is “galling” for the Conservatives to raise integrity in public life, pointing to Mr Ross’s support for former prime minister Boris Johnson.

The Scottish Conservative leader disputed that there had been an apology from Mr Matheson.

Mr Matheson misled the public, the press and the Parliament, Mr Ross said.

He added: “He’s resigned, but Humza Yousaf should have sacked him the minute it became clear that Michael Matheson had not told the truth.”

The First Minister also defended his Government’s record on health, saying: “We are focused on the recovery for the NHS, which includes record funding for our NHS.”

In contrast, he said the Tories are “gutting the NHS to the bone” in England.

Mr Ross said Mr Yousaf had staked his own reputation on the “disgraced” Mr Matheson.

He added: “Trust in this Government is gone. The SNP’s credibility is gone, Michael Matheson is gone.

“But Humza Yousaf the human shield is still here defending him.”

Mr Yousaf said polls show the public still back the SNP to run public services.

“How dare Douglas Ross stand here and talk about standards in public life,” he said, claiming Prime Minister Rishi Sunak had “punched down” by making comments in the House of Commons about transgender people.

“I’ll certainly not be taking any lectures from the Conservatives on standards and integrity in public life,” Mr Yousaf added.

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