A Scottish government minister racked up nearly £11,000 in data roaming fees on his parliament iPad while on a family holiday in Morocco.
Michael Matheson, who is now Scotland’s health secretary, was said to have been using the device for work but had not switched over from the parliament’s old mobile contract to a new one.
The Scottish parliament confirmed that Mr Matheson’s roaming charges – for the iPad and not phone calls – totalled £10,935.74.
Officials at Holyrood challenged the bill over the scale of the data fees and the late warning over the rising cost but previous provider EE declined to waive it.
Mr Matheson agreed to pay £3,000 towards the cost from his expenses budget. As the data use was reportedly for parliamentary business, the Scottish parliament agreed to pay the rest.
Both Scottish Labour and the Scottish Conservatives are calling for Mr Matheson to foot the “eye-watering” bill instead of taxpayers, with the Tories branding the cost “absolutely scandalous”.
A Scottish parliament spokesperson 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 totalled £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.”
Mr Matheson took the iPad with him on a week-long visit to Morocco with his family around Christmas last year.
The Falkirk West MSP was the net zero, energy and transport secretary in Nicola Sturgeon’s government at the time.
He has since been appointed health secretary under First Minister Humza Yousaf.
Roaming charges are incurred abroad when a mobile device connects outside of its home network rather than to wi-fi.
Opposition parties urge ‘cavalier’ SNP MSP to repay bill himself
Craig Hoy, chairman of the Scottish Conservatives, said: “It’s absolutely scandalous that taxpayers are picking up an enormous tab for Michael Matheson’s mistake.
“Even if we are to believe that he racked up this bill doing parliamentary and constituency work on a festive holiday in Morocco, the onus was on him to connect to the wi-fi where he was staying or check with the network provider to avoid brutal roaming charges.
“At a time when Scottish families are hard-pressed, this is a scandal and demonstrates the SNP’s totally cavalier attitude to public money.
“The £120,000-a-year SNP health secretary should do the decent thing and repay this money out of his own pocket.”
Jackie Baillie, deputy leader of Scottish Labour, described the situation as “simply mind-boggling”.
She added: “The SNP are on a different planet when it comes to wasting taxpayers’ cash.
“The Scottish public should not have to pick up this eye-watering bill for Michael Matheson.”