Scottish minister whose sons helped rack up £11k iPad charges watching derby ‘a Celtic guest before’

Scottish Health Secretary Michael Matheson talking to the media last week
Scottish Health Secretary Michael Matheson talking to the media last week - Jeff J Mitchell/Getty

The SNP Health Secretary’s claim he was unaware his sons ran up an £11,000 roaming charge bill on holiday by watching football has been ridiculed after it emerged he has been a VIP guest at several Celtic matches.

More than £7,300 of the roaming charges Michael Matheson billed the taxpayer for were incurred on Jan 2, the day of an Old Firm match between Rangers and Celtic.

Mr Matheson claimed last week that he did not know the two teenage boys were using his parliamentary iPad as an internet hotspot to stream matches while they were in Morocco as he had no “interest” in the teams involved.

But it has emerged that he attended another match between Celtic and Rangers in the Scottish Cup semi-final at Hampden Park in April 2016 as a guest of Police Scotland. He was justice secretary at the time.

The Sunday Mail also reported he was a VIP guest at a match between Celtic and Motherwell in the Betfred Cup final in 2017.

‘He must think the people of Scotland are gullible’

He also watched Celtic at Hampden against Kilmarnock in the Scottish Communities League Cup Final in 2012 as a special guest. He was representing the Scottish Government, which sponsored the competition that year.

Stephen Kerr, a Scottish Tory MSP, said: “Michael Matheson and the SNP spin doctors must think the people of Scotland are gullible.

”He claims he’s got no interest in Celtic or Rangers but it turns out he is a repeated recipient of freebie VIP tickets to watch Celtic.”

He accused Mr Matheson of telling “lie after lie” about his roaming charges and urged the Health Secretary to resign.

A source told the Sunday Mail: “Michael may well be a Partick Thistle fan but the idea that he has, as he suggested, no interest in Celtic is not true.

“He has taken up the opportunity to use his job to attend games for free on numerous occasions.”

Holyrood’s authorities handed Mr Matheson a breakdown of the £10,935.74 roaming charges bill on Feb 7 showing the bill surged on the days of football fixtures.

Opposition MSPs immediately made the link when it was recently made public.

But Mr Matheson told parliament he had used the iPad solely for constituency matters and it allowed him to use his taxpayer-funded expenses to fund £3,000 of the bill.

Holyrood funded the £7,935.74 balance from its own budget.

Told by his wife sons had watched football

He only agreed to pay back the money from his own pocket after The Telegraph disclosed the bill a fortnight ago. His annual salary is £118,511.

In a statement to parliament, he claimed he had found out his sons had used the device to watch football on Nov 9 when he was informed by his wife.

However, he told the media on Nov 13 that nobody else had used the device and there was no personal use.

Mr Matheson insisted last week he was unaware of his sons watching football during the holiday, saying: “The teams that were playing aren’t even the teams that I have any interest in in the first place. From my perspective, I was on holiday - it wasn’t of interest to me.”

The SNP referred the matter to the Scottish Government. A government spokesman said that “ministers are regularly invited to attend sporting fixtures and other events in an official capacity”.