SNP MSP Michael Matheson faces suspension from Scottish parliament over £11,000 iPad bill

MSP Michael Matheson is to be suspended from Holyrood for 27 sitting days and lose his salary for 54 days over his £11,000 iPad data roaming bill.

Mr Matheson was sanctioned by the Standards, Procedures and Public Appointments Committee on Thursday.

The decision will now go before MSPs for approval.

It comes after the Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body (SPCB) concluded in March that he had breached the MSP code of conduct.

The Falkirk West SNP MSP stood down as Scotland's health secretary in February, citing the SPCB investigation as the reason.

A ban of 10 days or more would be enough to trigger a recall petition in Westminster, however the Scottish parliament has no such mechanism.

Labour MSP Martin Whitfield, the committee convener, said the sanctions reflected the seriousness of the breach.

He said: "Had it not been for mitigatory factors, including the impact on the member and his family, the sanctions proposed would likely have been greater."

The committee was unanimous in recommending the withdrawal of salary for 54 days.

The suspension of 27 sitting days was recommended by committee member MSP Annie Wells and supported by Conservative colleague Oliver Mundell.

SNP members Jackie Dunbar and Alasdair Allan disagreed, with the deciding vote made by convener Mr Whitfield.

Mr Whitfield said: "I did not cast my vote on a personal view. But in my capacity as convenor, I recognise that the committee would otherwise not have been in a position to make a recommendation.

"I supported the proposal for an exclusion of a period of 27 sitting days."

SPCB launched an investigation in November after Mr Matheson took the parliamentary iPad with him on a week-long visit to Morocco with his family around Christmas in 2022.

His roaming charges for the iPad - not phone calls - totalled nearly £11,000 and were initially paid for by taxpayers after Mr Matheson claimed he racked up the eye-watering invoice undertaking constituency work during the trip.

Mr Matheson - who as Scotland's cabinet secretary for NHS recovery, health and social care had an annual salary of £118,511 - later agreed to pay the money back to the Scottish parliament.

After the story hit the headlines, it then emerged his teenage sons had used the iPad as a hotspot to watch football while on the family vacation.

Mr Matheson was the net zero, energy and transport secretary in Nicola Sturgeon's government at the time of the incident.

Mr Matheson, who was appointed health secretary last March when Humza Yousaf became first minister, told Holyrood he was unaware his sons had used the iPad as a hotspot when he initially submitted the bill.

He claimed he was told the truth by his wife after the story sparked a public outcry.

Following his wife's admission, Mr Matheson initially failed to publicly mention his sons' involvement. Instead, he continued to insist the iPad was only used for parliamentary work and blamed an outdated SIM card for the excessive bill.

When questioned by journalists days after he knew the truth, he continued to deny the iPad was used for personal use until he made a statement to Holyrood.

Mr Matheson tendered his resignation as health secretary before officially receiving the findings of SPCB's review.

He said it was in the "best interest" of himself and the Scottish government to step down to ensure it "does not become a distraction to taking forward the government's agenda".

In response, then first minister Mr Yousaf said he accepted Mr Matheson's resignation "with sadness".

The sanctions are expected to fuel calls for Mr Matheson to resign as an MSP.

Scottish Labour deputy leader Jackie Baillie said: "This damning ruling is yet another sorry chapter for an SNP government collapsing under the weight of its own sleaze.

"Michael Matheson has treated the public with contempt and the upper echelons of the SNP closed ranks to try and protect him, putting the party interest before the national interest.

"It cannot be right that an MSP can ride roughshod over the rules without the public getting a chance to boot them out - Scottish Labour would introduce a right to recall as part of our plans to clean up Holyrood."

Mr Matheson has been contacted for comment.