Bill penalty

Swinney will not back suspension of Matheson

Michael Matheson
Michael Matheson, head bowed as he apologised to parliament earlier this year

First Minister John Swinney has refused to back a recommendation that former health secretary Michael Matheson should be suspended for claiming an £11,000 bill for his iPad on government expenses.

Holyrood’s standards committee has recommended the SNP MSP should be barred from parliament for 27 days and his pay withheld for 54 days.

The iPad charges, initially paid out of the public purse, were incurred during a family trip to Morocco in late 2022.

Mr Matheson, who resigned as health secretary in February, had been found in breach of the MSPs code of conduct by the Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body (SPCB).

Mr Matheson initially said he had used the iPad solely for constituency work, but later admitted parliament his sons had used it as a wifi hotspot to watch a Rangers vs Celtic football match. He apologised and paid back the bill in full.

A former Justice Secretary, he spent more than nine years in the Scottish Government cabinet.

He has previously said he would not step down as an MSP over the scandal and his apology was accepted by Humza Yousaf who was First Minister at the time.

In the parliament, which will vote on the committee’s recommendation, Scottish Conservatives leader Douglas Ross and Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar were united in calling for Mr Matheson to resign or be sacked, and both demanded that voters should have a right of recall over MSPs.

Michael Matheson cut a forlorn figure in parliament today

Mr Sarwar said “The Former SNP Health Secretary Michael Matheson misled the media, the public and this Parliament. John Swinney has demeaned himself, the Parliament and the office of First Minister by attempting to defend the indefensible.

“Two weeks in and the pretence of a new kind of government has been shattered – it is still party first and country second with the SNP.

“Even now that what Michael Matheson has done is clear, the SNP is standing behind him.

“Michael Matheson should do the right thing, stand down and allow a by-election to take place on the same day as the General Election, and John Swinney should have made that clear today.

“People across Scotland should have the right to recall their MSPs if they are found to have behaved inappropriately.”

Mr Ross said: “Anyone in the real world would lose their job for what Michael Matheson did. He should be suspended from the SNP and he must resign.”

He announced that the Scottish Conservatives will seek to bring forward a vote in the chamber next week.

John Swinney
John Swinney facing criticism from Anas Sarwar in parliament today

“Our motion will state that Michael Matheson should resign for misusing taxpayers’ money and making false statements to the public, the press and parliament,” he said.

Mr Swinney defended the government’s track record and Mr Matheson’s response to the affair, insisting he cared deeply about the reputation and integrity of the parliament. He said the process had been “prejudiced” and could bring parliament into disrepute.

“No I will not support calls for Michael Matheson to resign,” he declared.

In a statement, Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton added his voice to calls for Mr Matheson to go.

“Michael Matheson has lost the confidence of parliament and the public. It is now difficult to see how he can continue to represent his constituents.

“Scottish Liberal Democrats have repeatedly called for there to be a right for people to recall their MSPs in cases of proven misconduct.

“There must be consequences for politicians and the decision about whether someone is fit to remain in post should ultimately rest with the people who put them there. Even the UK Parliament has had legislation applying to the recall of MPs since 2015.

“Scottish Liberal Democrats want to put power back in the hands of the voters, end the culture of secrecy and spin and fix our broken politics.”

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