John Swinney accused of using 'Boris Johnson playbook' over Michael Matheson expenses row

Anas Sarwar has accused John Swinney of copying "the Boris Johnson playbook" over the iPad data roaming scandal.

The Scottish Labour leader said the SNP has "lost all sense of reality" by defending former health secretary Michael Matheson.

First Minister Swinney said last week that the investigation into Matheson had been "prejudiced".

Matheson is likely to be suspended from Holyrood for 27 days on Wednesday evening and have 54 days of pay docked on Wednesday evening.

He quit as Health Secretary this year over the £11,000 bill he racked up on an iPad during a family holiday to Morocco.

The MSP initially pleaded ignorance and was content for the taxpayer to foot the bill for the data roaming. But after facing sustained questions he says his children had used the device to stream football.

Sarwar said on a visit to the Gorbals in Glasgow: "John Swinney has tried to play the Boris Johnson and Conservative Party playbook.

"When they don't like the result, they go after the referee, or they go after the crowd.

"This is a political party that has lost all sense of reality.

"They're trying to defend the actions of a man who misused £11,000 of public money and picking on the actions of a committee instead.

"I think it shows them for what they are. They're standing by one of their friends, rather than the integrity of parliament.

"They are putting their party before the country and I think the people can clearly see that."

Sarwar added: "It puts to bed any pretence that John Swinney is trying to deliver a different kind of politics.

"He's not. He's putting his friendships before the integrity of parliament, and he's putting his party before he is putting the country and frankly it's shameful."

Last week Swinney took issue with comments made by Tory MSP Annie Wells, who voted for Matheson's suspension in Holyrood's Standards committee. Wells had previously publicly criticised Matheson.

Holyrood's Corporate Body judged Matheson had breached the code of conduct, but it was the Standards committee who voted for the sanction.

Swinney had initially said he was against the sanctions but after a U-turn the SNP is now expected to vote for Matheson's suspension and salary ban.

Labour has proposed an amendment which would allow for Matheson to be recalled by his constituents, while the Tories have a debate calling for Matheson to resign.

The SNP would be facing a potential by-election if Matheson were in Westminster as an MP suspension of more than 10 days triggers a recall petition.

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