Michael Matheson has finally quit as Scotland’s health secretary in the wake of a scandal sparked by him racking up almost £11,000 in iPad data roaming charges.
The SNP minister is standing down to prevent the row becoming a ‘distraction’ to the Scottish Government in Edinburgh, he told First Minister Humza Yousaf.
It comes after weeks of pressure on Mr Matheson to resign – or Mr Yousaf to sack him – over the eye-watering bill he ran up on his official device and which he tried to charge to taxpayers.
The huge fees were incurred during his and his family’s Christmas break to Morocco.
In November, Mr Matheson admitted in an emotional statement to the Scottish Parliament that his teenage sons had used the iPad to watch football while abroad.
It emerged that more than £7,000 of the usage came on January 2 last year, the same day as an Old Firm fixture between Celtic and Rangers.
Mr Matheson’s admission came despite him having previously insisted there had been no personal use of his parliamentary iPad.
He also initially tried to leave taxpayers to pick up the bill – by claiming it through expenses – although he later said he would pay the full costs himself.
Following Mr Matheson’s resignation from his £120,000-a-year role today, the Scottish Tories immediately demanded Mr Yousaf explain why he previously defended his health secretary as a ‘man of integrity’.
Michael Matheson has finally quit as Scotland’s health secretary in wake of a scandal sparked by him racking up almost £11,000 in iPad data roaming charges
There had been weeks of pressure on Mr Matheson to resign – or Humza Yousaf to sack him – over the eye-watering bill he ran up on his official device and tried to charge to taxpayers
In a resignation letter sent to Mr Yousaf today, Mr Matheson said he was standing down to prevent the row becoming a ‘distraction’ to the Scottish Government in Edinburgh
Scottish Conservatives leader Douglas Ross said: ‘Michael Matheson has finally resigned after expecting taxpayers to foot an £11,000 bill for his iPad roaming charges.
‘Humza Yousaf must explain why he defended him as a “man of integrity and honesty” when he knew his former health secretary had lied.’
Stephen Kerr, a fellow Scottish Tory MSP, added: ‘An utter humiliation for Humza Yousaf – Michael Matheson has quit as health secretary after Humza’s backing.
‘It shows again the terrible judgement of the First Minister. This cannot be allowed to continue.’
Scottish Labour deputy leader Jackie Baillie said: ‘While I welcome the news that Michael Matheson has finally gone, the fact is the First Minister has big questions to answer over his lack of judgment.
‘While our NHS is in crisis, Humza Yousaf has shown his weakness by putting the SNP before our NHS.
‘Now more than ever we need a health minister focused on the crisis at hand.
‘It’s clear that the First Minister has no plan to save our NHS and that shuffling the SNP deckchairs will make no difference – it’s time for change.’
Mr Matheson’s iPad bill is being probed by Holyrood officials with their findings expected to be released in the coming weeks.
The Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body is investigating the data roaming charges and could potentially refer him to the Standards, Procedures and Public Appointments Committee.
It is looking look at whether the claims for £11,000 of taxpayers’ cash were ‘proper’ and met the requirements of MSPs’ expenses scheme.
It is also considering ‘whether resources were used for parliamentary purposes in accordance with all SPCB policies’.
If Mr Matheson is referred to the Standards, Procedures and Public Appointments Committee, it could result in him losing access to ‘all or part’ of his parliamentary expenses.
Other unspecified action can be taken if he was found to have misused parliamentary ‘facilities and services’.
In a resignation letter sent to Mr Yousaf today, Mr Matheson wrote: ‘Having requested that the Socttish Parliament Corporate Body review my data roaming charges from last year, I am conscious that this process will conclude in the coming weeks.
‘I have still not received the findings of their review, however, 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.’
Mr Matheson also told Mr Yousaf he was ‘enormously grateful’ to the First Minister for his support ‘throughout the last year’, adding: ‘It has meant a great deal to both me and my family.’
The First Minister said it was ‘with sadness’ he had accepted Mr Matheson’s resignation as health secretary.
With a review of the data roaming charges ongoing, Mr Yousaf said it was ‘best’ for him to ‘now step down to ensure you are able to give the Parliamentary process the attention it deserves without it becoming a distraction to taking forward the Government’s agenda’.
Mr Matheson was appointed as health secretary in March, when Mr Yousaf took over from Nicola Sturgeon as First Minister.
He had previously served as transport secretary and justice secretary in the Scottish Government.