Michael Matheson racked up the huge bill on holiday in Morocco (Picture: PA)
A cabinet minister racked up a nearly £11,000 bill while using a parliament iPad on holiday – but he’s refused to pay out of his own pocket.
But he used it so often without connecting to a wifi network that the Scottish parliament was hit with a £10,935.74 bill for his roaming charges.
Mr Matheson, who earns £118,511 a year from his government position, only covered £3,000 of the cost from his taxpayer-funded expenses, Holyrood insiders told The Telegraph.
They say he refused to pay the remaining balance out of his own pocket, and the Scottish parliament paid from its own budget after receiving assurances that ‘these costs were incurred in relation to parliamentary business and not for personal or government use’.
Both Scottish Labour and Tories have slammed the revelations, with Tory chair Craig Hoy describing the situation as ‘absolutely scandalous’.
Mr Hoy added: ‘The £120,00-a-year SNP Health Secretary should do the decent thing and repay this money out of his own pocket.’
Dame Jackie Baillie, Scottish Labour’s deputy leader, said the huge bill was ‘mind-boggling’, adding: ‘What on earth could Mr Matheson have been doing to justify the public coughing up for this – the SNP is on a different planet when it comes to wasting taxpayers’ cash.
He offered to pay £3,000 of the bill out of his expenses (Picture: Ken Jack/Getty Images)
‘The Scottish public should not have to pick up this eye-watering bill for Michael Matheson.’
A spokesman for Mr Matheson said the eye-watering bill was a ‘legitimate parliamentary expense to cover constituency work while overseas’.
He said the Falkirk West MSP was not aware of a ‘problem with his device at the time, which has since been resolved’.
Sources close to the health secretary said he used the device for work during his North African holiday and insisted that ‘the basic issue was it was an old sim card which should not have been in it’.
Asked whether he had refused a request to make a personal contribution to the cost, sources close to Mr Matheson would only say that he agreed to make a ‘donation’ through his publicly funded office allowances.
A Scottish parliament spokesman said: ‘Substantial roaming charges were incurred by Mr Matheson on his parliamentary iPad while in Morocco at the start of this year.
‘As the member was still using the parliament’s previous mobile provider, and hadn’t yet switched to our present contract, he incurred significant data fees over and above its “rest of the world” tariff rate.
‘The parliament challenged the company over the scale of the data fees – which totaled £10,935.74 – and over the late warning to the rising cost, but the company declined to meet or waive any of the charges.
‘On the basis that the member has assured the parliament that these costs were incurred in relation to parliamentary business and not for personal or government use, we agreed that Mr Matheson would contribute £3,000 from his office cost provision and the remainder would be paid centrally by the parliament.’