Michael Matheson fell short of the standards expected of MSPs by failing to tell the truth about his overseas roaming charges straight away, the former chair of Westminster’s ethics committee has said.
Sir Alistair Graham, who was chairman of the Committee on Standards in Public Life from 2003 until 2007, said “the cover up of the problem” was the reason why the Health Secretary still found himself facing calls to quit.
He was speaking after the leaders of both Scottish Labour and the Scottish Conservatives repeated their demands for Mr Matheson to quit the Government for misleading the public about the affair last week.
Mr Matheson admitted last Thursday that his two teenage sons had used his Parliament-issued iPad to watch football matches while on a family holiday in Morocco, racking up a bill of almost £11,000 in data roaming charges in the process.
After returning from the holiday last Christmas, Mr Matheson claimed £3,000 on his expenses, with the rest of the sum met by the Scottish Parliament. He agreed to pay the full bill himself after it was disclosed earlier this month.
The Health Secretary also continued to insist that the device was only used for parliamentary work despite being informed of the truth by his wife, claiming he had done this in order to “protect” his children from scrutiny.
Asked about the affair on Sunday, Sir Alistair told the BBC it was clear that Mr Matheson “didn’t tell the full story initially”.
“These things can happen, if his children used this government device as a hotspot…so they could play football on other devices, but in the end it’s the cover up of the problem,” he added.
“He didn’t tell the truth straight away, and may well be subject to some disciplinary action because he didn’t meet the standards that you expect from members of parliament, whether it’s in Westminster or whether it’s in the devolved authority.”
A potential vote of no confidence in Mr Matheson is being threatened by Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross, although he is likely to survive this with the support of SNP and Green MSPs.
The Health Secretary continues to have the backing of Humza Yousaf, who said on Sunday he believed he was a man of “integrity” and “honesty”.
“He should have handled the situation better, Michael knows that and he’s apologised for that,” he said. Asked if he had been misled himself by his Cabinet minister, the First Minister replied: “No, I don’t believe Michael did.”