In a seismic development for the Scottish Parliament, SNP Health Secretary Michael Matheson finds himself at the epicenter of a potential scandal, triggering urgent calls for an official investigation. The focus? A jaw-dropping £11,000 in roaming charges amassed during his holiday in Morocco.
This revelation has ignited a firestorm of criticism, with taxpayers left grappling with the weight of an extravagant bill that some assert raises profound questions about the responsible use of public funds.
The controversy emerged when it was revealed that Matheson had clocked up an eye-watering £10,935.74 in charges during a week-long sojourn to Morocco last Christmas, all stemming from his parliamentary-issued iPad. Rather than accepting responsibility, the Health Secretary swiftly shifted blame, pointing fingers at an allegedly outdated SIM card as the source of the exorbitant charges.
During the recent First Minister’s Questions session, Matheson pledged to address inquiries into the iPad usage. However, what ensued was a fleeting statement followed by a rapid exit, fueling the clamor for a full-fledged official inquiry.
Parliament’s reputation at stake
Stepping into the fray, Scottish Conservative chairman Craig Hoy seized the initiative, urging parliamentary head Nicola Sturgeon to spearhead an investigation. He expressed deep concern over the potential damage inflicted on the parliament’s reputation, emphasizing the gravity of the situation during a point of order at Holyrood.
Hoy insisted, “This incident has damaged the reputation of the Scottish Parliament, and it is incumbent on you, Presiding Officer, to repair and defend this.” He called for full transparency, demanding that the entire bill be made public and a thorough examination into whether parliamentary rules had been breached.
Despite the severity of the allegations, Matheson displayed a dismissive demeanor during the proceedings, even smirking at the mention of the staggering charges. The presiding officer clarified that she would respond to an official request for an investigation.
As questions linger about Matheson’s accountability and the need for reimbursement, SNP minister Humza Yousaf staunchly supported his colleague. Yousaf maintained, “No, the parliamentary authorities have already confirmed, of course, that it was a legitimate parliamentary expense.”
This response drew sharp rebuke from Scottish Conservative chairman Craig Hoy, who characterized the comments from both SNP ministers as “utterly tone-deaf.” He criticized Matheson for providing a cursory explanation without extending a formal apology.
The failure to adequately address these concerns has left taxpayers incensed, casting a harsh light on issues of accountability in the responsible management of public funds.
In a partial concession, Matheson has agreed to personally contribute £3,000 towards the bill from his expenses budget, leaving the remainder to be covered by the Parliament’s budget.
Source: Morocco World News