Health Secretary Michael Matheson blames £11,000 iPad roaming charge on sons watching football

Health Secretary Michael Matheson blames £11,000 iPad roaming charge on sons watching football

Scottish Health Secretary Michael Matheson has blamed an £11,000 iPad roaming charge he racked up while in Morocco on his sons watching football.

He apologised on Thursday as he revealed how his teenage sons used the data from his Holyrood-issued device to watch football matches while on a family holiday.

He denied watching the games himself, telling journalists: "I didn’t watch the football. I didn’t even know the football was being watched.”

Mr Matheson made a personal statement to MSPs on Thursday, a week after a row erupted about the charges.

He initially insisted he had been using the device for parliamentary work during the trip, which he went on with his wife and two sons shortly after Christmas last year.

But amid increasing demands to explain the data charges – which amounted to a total of £10,935.74 – Mr Matheson told MSPs that members of his family had “made use of the iPad’s data” by hotspotting to the device.

Information published by the Scottish Scottish Parliament revealed that in one session on January 2, a total of 3.18GB of data was used, costing £7,345.689.

Speaking about the data usage, Mr Matheson said: “The simple truth is they watched football matches.”

The Falkirk West MSP choked back tears as he explained he had not mentioned his family’s use of the device before now because he was a “father first and foremost” and had wanted to “protect” his children from “the political and media scrutiny”.

He added: “That was a mistake and I am sorry.

“I can see now that it just isn’t possible to explain the data usage without explaining their role.”

He added: "The responsibility for the iPad is mine, the responsibility for the data usage is mine.

“That is why my wife and I made the immediate decision to reimburse parliament for the full cost.”

His statement came after Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross had urged First Minister Humza Yousaf to “do the right thing” and sack the Health Secretary over the matter.

Raising the issue earlier on Thursday in Holyrood, Mr Ross had said: “The evidence shows that Michael Matheson claimed £11,000 of taxpayers’ money when he knew it wasn’t for parliamentary work.

“It wasn’t just a mistake, it was dishonest.”

Mr Yousaf insisted, however, that he had “absolute confidence in Mr Matheson as the Cabinet Secretary for Health”.

Labour’s Dame Jackie Baillie said parents of teenage children would understand the situation, but not the fact that there had been a “cover up”.

The fact the iPad was not kept secure was “negligent”, she said.

Meanwhile, Scottish Conservative deputy leader Meghan Gallacher said if the password for the iPad had been shared this could have been a breach of GDPR.

Mr Matheson told her he had been advised that he could use the iPad for hotspotting purposes.