Michael Matheson given record Holyrood ban over iPad scandal

Home UK News Michael Matheson given record Holyrood ban over iPad scandal
Michael Matheson given record Holyrood ban over iPad scandal

Angus Cochrane ,BBC Scotland News

Getty Images Michael Matheson Getty Images

Michael Matheson was found to have breached Holyrood’s code of conduct

MSPs have agreed to hand Michael Matheson a record ban from parliament for breaching Holyrood’s expenses policy.

The former Scottish health secretary – sanctioned over an £11,000 data bill charged to his parliamentary iPad – is to be banned from Holyrood for 27 sitting days and will have his salary withdrawn for 54 days.

Mr Matheson apologised and said he accepted parliament’s decision.

The SNP did not vote for the sanction and called for a review of the complaints process, arguing it was open to bias and prejudice.

The punishment, recommended by the standards committee, was passed in the chamber by 64 votes in favour, with no votes against.

The SNP successfully amended the motion to include complaints about the process, but abstained from voting on the final amended version.

Mr Matheson, who quit the cabinet in February, is the subject of a separate Scottish Conservative motion calling on him to resign from Holyrood.

The Falkirk West representative will be suspended for more than five weeks – exceeding previous record bans of one month.

His salary penalty will be roughly equivalent to the £10,941.74 bill charged to his parliamentary device during a family holiday to Morocco between December 2022 and January 2023.

The sanctions will come into force from Thursday.

Mr Matheson is to be barred from all proceedings in the chamber and committees, but not from the parliamentary estate.

He will not be able to return to proceedings until early September after MSPs return from summer recess.

Getty Images Kate forbes and john swinney walkingGetty Images

John Swinney and Kate Forbes said the conduct committee’s process was flawed

The SNP amendment raised concerns that a Conservative member of the standards committee, Annie Wells, made “public pronouncements” about Mr Matheson previously.

It called for parliament’s corporate body to carry out an independent review of the complaints process.

Deputy First Minister Kate Forbes, who tabled the amendment, told MSPs the “fundamental principle of natural justice” was at stake.

She said while she believed Ms Wells should have recused herself from the committee, she did not want to see any abuse or harassment of MSPs as a result of the process.

Intervening on the debate, Tory MSP Stephen Kerr accused the Scottish government of a “vindictive attack” on Ms Wells.

First Minister John Swinney – who described Mr Matheson as a friend – had said he would not support the sanctions and echoed concerns about the committee process.

Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross said Mr Swinney “chose to support his friend and colleague in direct opposition to the Scottish public”.

“His actions are indefensible,” he added.

Unlike at Westminster, where MPs can be removed by constituents if they are suspended for more than 10 days, there is no recall mechanism at Holyrood.

Scottish Labour deputy leader Jackie Baillie said Mr Matheson’s constituents should be able to recall him.

She also accused Mr Swinney of undermining the integrity of parliament and “putting party before country”.

iPad scandal

After the bill was charged to Mr Matheson’s iPad, it was agreed with parliament that the bill would be paid out of the public purse, including £3,000 from his own office cost allowance.

When details of the bill were reported in the press several months later in November 2023, Mr Matheson blamed the bill on an out of date sim card and insisted the device had been used exclusively for constituency work.

Following days of speculation he told parliament his sons had used the iPad to set up a wifi hotspot. He apologised and agreed to pay the bill personally and in full.

He quit as health secretary in February after more than nine years in cabinet, ahead of the publication of a report by the Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body (SPCB) which found he had breached the MSPs code of conduct.

The SPCB report was then considered by the cross-party standards committee. Labour MSP Martin Whitfield, the committee convener, said the proposed sanctions reflected the seriousness of Mr Matheson’s breach of the MSP code of conduct.

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