close
close

The SNP is diverting attention from opposing the suspension of Michael Matheson

Parliament will vote to suspend Michael Matheson after the SNP confirmed it would support the sanction, changing its position last week.

The former health secretary faces a 27-day ban from parliament and a 54-day deprivation of his salary for breaching the MSP code of conduct and spending program rules when he falsely claimed £11,000 in data roaming charges.

Last week, the Parliamentary Standards Committee recommended sanctions after considering a report by the Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body (SPCB) which found Matheson had failed to meet standards of conduct.

However, at FMQs last week, First Minister John Swinney opposed these sanctions, claiming “bias” had influenced the committee’s deliberations.

Now his party is in a major U-turn, accepting the recommendations but instead trying to amend the standard committee’s proposal to highlight its problems with the process.

An amendment tabled by Deputy First Minister Kate Forbes says the report may be “open to bias and prejudice and the complaint may be prejudged, thereby bringing Parliament into disrepute”.

The debate and vote on the motion will take place on Wednesday afternoon.

Matheson will not be able to return to parliament until after the summer break.

The SNP’s decision came after an announcement on Tuesday evening by the Scottish Greens confirming that its MPs would support the sanctions. A spokesman said: “It is true that Mr Matheson will be held to account for his actions and our group of MSPs will vote for sanctions excluding him from parliament and sacrificing his salary.”

The debate will be followed by a separate debate led by Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross, calling on Matheson to resign as an MP.

Ross’ motion states: “Parliament considers that Michael Matheson should resign as an MP for misusing taxpayers’ money and making misleading statements.”

Matheson has repeatedly said he will not resign as MP for Falkirk West and has continued to serve as an SNP backbencher since resigning from the government in February.

Ross said: “Michael Matheson would have been sacked in any other situation for what he did. That’s why polls show the vast majority think he must go.”

However, with opposition from the SNP and the Greens, the motion is unlikely to be adopted.

In response to last week’s report, Matheson told reporters the process was “highly politicized.” He also said he believed the proposed sanction was “excessive” and “unfair.”

SNP MPs on the standards committee Alasdair Allan and Jackie Dunbar voted against the 27-day suspension, saying it was unusually high. The pair were defeated in the vote, with the other three members of the committee (Chairman Martin Whitfield and Tory MPs Annie Wells and Oliver Mundell) supporting them.

However, the committee unanimously agreed that the suspension and withdrawal of pay was the appropriate solution.

Swinney’s claim of bias was based on the fact that Wells did not hold back from looking into complaints despite making public comments on the matter, unlike fellow Tory Stephen Kerr who said he could not be impartial.

Matheson came across the data roaming bill while on a family vacation to Morocco. He said he initially thought the parliamentary iPad was only used for parliamentary purposes and only later discovered his sons were using the device as a hotspot to watch football.

He later refunded the amount.

Holyrood Bulletins

Holyrood provides comprehensive coverage of Scottish politics with award-winning reporting and analysis: Subscribe