Scottish health secretary agrees to pay £11k data roaming bill racked up on government device

After a switch in telecoms providers, ministers were told to replace SIM cards six months before Michael Matheson went on holiday – with government originally footing the bill for roaming charges

Scottish Government health secretary Michael Matheson will pay the almost £11,000 bill he incurred in data roaming charges while on holiday in Morocco.

The £10,935.74 bill was originally paid by the Scottish Parliament, as it was for the use of an iPad for constituency and parliamentary purposes. An investigation by the parliament in January found the reason the bill was so large was because Matheson had been using a SIM from a previous provider.

In a statement, the SNP MSP said he had “reflected long and hard” on the matter and ultimately decided the SIM card “should have been replaced at an earlier stage”.

MSPs had been told to replace all SIMs months before the minister’s holiday.

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In a statement issued on Friday, the health secretary said: “While the parliament agreed to pay the bulk of this sum as a legitimate expense, with the rest being met from my office allowance, I have reflected long and hand, and accept that the SIM card on this device should have been replace at an earlier stage. Much of the speculation on the past couple of days had questioned my integrity, and I take this extremely seriously. I take equally seriously the reputation of the Scottish Parliament, of which I have always striven to be a diligent member since its restoration in 1999. It is my decision to reimburse these costs in full, which I believe in all the circumstances to be the right one.”

Opposition parties had been calling for Matheson to meet the cost of the bill.

Both Scottish Labour deputy leader Jackie Baille and Scottish Conservative chair Craig Hoy said Matheson had been at fault and therefore should pay the cash back.

Louise Wilson

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