John Swinney denies Michael Matheson row has overshadowed SNP general election campaign

Michael Matheson
-Credit: (Image: Jane Barlow/PA Wire)

John Swinney has denied an ongoing row over Michael Matheson has overshadowed the start of the SNP's general election campaign.

MSPs will vote on Wednesday on what sanctions should be applied to the former health secretary after he was found to have broken parliamentary rules on expenses.

Matheson, a veteran Nationalist, attempted to use taxpapers' cash to cover an £11,000 data roaming bill racked up on his official iPad during a family holiday to Morocco.

He later admitted the costs were incurred by his teenage sons who were using the device as a hotspot to live stream football.

Matheson has come under pressure to resign after Holyrood's standards committee last week recommended he should be suspended for 27 days and have his salary stripped for 54 days.

But Swinney faced a backlash after he accused the cross-party group of being "prejudiced" against Matheson.

Asked by the Record if the row had overshadowed the first week of the campaign, the SNP leader said today: "No. Because I have been out and about, talking to lots of people, as part of my travels around the country.

"People are talking to me about matters that are important to them like, the effect of austerity on public services. Businesses telling me that Brexit is causing them ongoing difficulties. And I can't speak to a household without them expressing concerns about the cost of living."

Askes what the appropriate sanction was for Matheson, the First Minister said: "I've made it clear there are problems with the process going on here. It's beyond justification that a member of the committee, that is deciding on these issues, has made public comments that prejudge the situation.

"In no other walk of life would this be judged to be acceptable, and I'm really concerned that's happening in parliament.

"The parliament will decide on the sanctions."

Swinney continued: "Parliament has its processes for handling this, and parliament is coming to its judgement. Some of it has been looked at by the Corporate Body, some of it has been looked at by the standards committee, and you know what I think about the standards committee - there has been a deep flaw in their handling of this matter.

"But it's for parliament to decide on the outcome of this process."

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