Scottish minister resigns over high data bill

Henry

Scotland’s health minister, Michael Matheson, resigned on Thursday after an uproar over his expensive iPad data bill erupted around his head at the end of last year.

Matheson was on holiday with his family in Morocco when he incurred more than R240 000 worth of roaming costs (“roaming”) for data – this on an iPad issued to him by the Scottish Parliament.

Matheson, who has served in various ministerial roles in Scotland’s devolved government for the past ten years, said on Friday that it was “in the best interests of myself and the government that I now step down”.

An inquiry into the matter in the Scottish Parliament will be completed in the coming weeks.

Matheson initially played down the claims about the high bill, saying he only used the device for official business, while he and his family had work abroad in December 2022.

He later retracted that statement and admitted that his teenage sons used the iPad to watch football.

The U-turn came after opposition parties pointed out that he would have to send around 8 000 emails in 24 hours to run up a £7 300 bill (more than R168 000) on one of the days.

At the time, Matheson claimed that he “did not knowingly incur the data roaming charges” and indicated that he had fully repaid the money, which the Scottish Government had initially put up.

Scotland’s first minister, Humza Yousaf, said last November that he had “absolute confidence” in Matheson as a minister and that “honest mistakes do happen”.

Opposition parties welcomed his resignation and said on Thursday that the saga also reflects badly on Yousaf.

“The first minister has big questions to answer about his lack of judgement,” said Jackie Baillie, deputy leader of the Scottish Labor Party.