Humza Yousaf has refuted any suggestion that he was deceived by Michael Matheson regarding the iPad data billing controversy. Nevertheless, Yousaf acknowledged that Matheson could have handled the situation better.
Defending the health secretary, Matheson, the first minister described him as a “man of integrity,” as speculation about a possible vote of no confidence against Matheson emerges in Holyrood, The Times reported.
Matheson confessed last Thursday (16) that his teenage sons had utilised data from his Holyrood-issued iPad to watch football matches while on holiday in Morocco, incurring a roaming bill of nearly £11,000.
Initially stating that the device was solely used for parliamentary duties during the family trip in December and early January, Matheson later admitted that he had recently discovered his family’s involvement but chose not to reveal this information initially to safeguard his children.
In an emotional personal statement to the Scottish parliament, Matheson mentioned that he disclosed the truth to Yousaf on Tuesday (14).
Subsequently, the first minister declared the matter as resolved despite this new revelation.
Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Broadcasting House on Sunday, Yousaf indicated that Matheson had only utilised the iPad himself for parliamentary purposes and had recently learned of his sons’ use of the data at the end of last week.
Yousaf said, there’s a legitimate question around whether he should have been forthcoming publicly at that time regarding why he chose to reimburse the entire bill.
“He was trying to protect his children from media scrutiny.”
He continued to stand by Matheson’s character, stating, “For me, Michael — who I’ve known for well over 15 years — is a man of integrity, honesty. He should have handled the situation better, Michael knows that and he’s apologised for that.”
Responding to whether Matheson misled him during the incident, Yousaf said, “No, I don’t believe Michael did [mislead me], as I say he’s a man I know of pure honesty and integrity.”
Douglas Ross, the Scottish Conservative leader, criticised Matheson, suggesting that he was avoiding public scrutiny. The Moray MP remarked that only his party could introduce a motion of no confidence in the health secretary.
On BBC Scotland’s The Sunday Show, Ross highlighted the absence of Yousaf, Matheson, or the deputy first minister on the programme. He remarked that this was impacting all levels of government in Scotland, emphasising the lack of willingness to address significant matters.
Ross suggested that their absence reflected an inability to defend the health secretary, whom he believed should have resigned by now, indicating that Yousaf should have sacked him.
Before Humza’s Broadcasting House appearance, Ross indicated, it’s evident that the SNP is apprehensive about the Matheson scandal.
He said it’s unacceptable that neither the health secretary nor Yousaf are willing to address this issue, considering the former’s repeated lies and the first minister’s involvement in a cover-up.
He also highlighted Shona Robison’s (deputy first minister) cancelled interview, suggesting that her avoidance reflected the broader impact of the scandal on the entire SNP government, rather than just the health secretary’s attempt to avoid public scrutiny by skipping ministerial engagements.
“The SNP must agree to Scottish Conservative demands for a debate in parliament this week because there are so many key questions that remain unanswered,” he said.
On The Sunday Show, Anas Sarwar, the Scottish Labour leader, reiterated his demand for Matheson’s resignation. “I don’t think the first minister or the parliament should have any confidence in Michael Matheson, he should resign,” he said.
“He says he found out the truth on Thursday, but he continued to tell mistruths to the public for days after. He says he told the first minister on Tuesday, the first minister also told mistruths the day after as well. That’s not acceptable in public life.”