New Health Secretary says Matheson payout is ‘a right that is awarded’
Michael Matheson resigned on February 8 after incurring £10,935 in data roaming charges on his iPad while on a family holiday.
Scotland’s new Health Secretary has said it is for his predecessor to decide whether he takes a £13,000 payout for leaving his role, despite having racked up nearly £11,000 in data roaming charges abroad.
SNP MSP for Airdrie and Shotts Neil Gray has succeeded Michael Matheson.
Mr Matheson resigned on February 8 after incurring £10,935 in data roaming charges on his iPad while on a family holiday.
He remains in his position as MSP for Falkirk West.
Speaking on BBC Radio Scotland’s The Sunday Show, new Health Secretary Mr Gray credited his predecessor for “25 years of incredible public service”, adding that “he has dedicated himself to public service”.
He told host Martin Geissler: “He made a mistake, there is not doubt in that. He has admitted and apologised.”
The radio host then quizzed Mr Gray on whether he would have taken the £13,000 severance pay Mr Matheson has been offered for leaving his duty as health secretary.
Mr Gray said the question was “hypothetical”, and that the payout is a “right that is awarded” to Mr Matheson.
He added: “It’s for Michael to decide whether he takes that.”
Mr Matheson racked up the charges while holidaying in Morocco over Christmas in 2022, later conceding his sons had used the device as a hotspot to watch football.
He initially claimed the hefty bill on parliamentary expenses, saying the device had been used only for parliamentary work, before paying the money back in full when the charges came to light publicly in November.
His resignation came ahead of the outcome of an investigation by the Scottish Parliament Corporate Body into his expenses claim to cover the iPad charges.
Commenting after Mr Gray’s appearance on The Sunday Show, Scottish Labour health spokesperson Jackie Baillie said: “The new Health Secretary has inherited an overflowing in-tray from his predecessors – including Humza Yousaf.
“From missed cancer treatment targets to A&E waiting times to the government’s shambolic National Care Service, Neil Gray has a mammoth challenge ahead.
“This crisis is the result of 17 years of SNP failure.
“People want change and only Scottish Labour can deliver it.”
Mr Gray also said progress was being made on NHS waiting times, discussing plans to improve the service.
Scottish Conservative deputy health spokesperson Tess White MSP said the new Health Secretary has “inherited a poisoned chalice due to the dire workforce planning of previous SNP health secretaries, which has left Scotland’s NHS ill-equipped to meet the huge demands placed on it”.
Ms White added: “A report from the Institute for Fiscal Studies last week revealed that Scotland’s NHS is treating fewer patients than pre-pandemic, which is a clear indictment of Humza Yousaf’s failed Covid recovery plan.
“Waiting times in A&E and for cancer treatment are not just unacceptable, they are leading to needless deaths. Neil Gray’s claim that progress is being made on these is baffling when they are at record highs.
“He also spoke of the importance of national treatment centres but forgot to mention that some of these are being mothballed because of the freeze on NHS capital spending stemming from the SNP Government’s financial mismanagement.
“Neil Gray said he will look at long-term plans to improve Scotland’s NHS – but our health service is on its knees and needs action taken now.
“The new Health Secretary should be adopting the policies contained in the Scottish Conservatives’ health paper launched last week – including increasing the proportion of NHS spending going on primary care, to deliver 1,000 extra GPs. This would reduce the strain on other areas of our NHS.”