Michael Matheson has said he is “confident” about his record as health secretary as the Scottish Conservatives continue to push for a no-confidence vote after he put a nearly £11,000 bill on his parliamentary iPad.
The Health Secretary came under fire over data roaming charges this month, making an emotional statement to MSPs in which he revealed his teenage sons had racked up the costs by using the device to watch football while on a family holiday in Morocco.
But with reporters also raising concerns that Mr Matheson may have lied to the press about the issue, Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross said “a significant number of questions remain completely unanswered”.
Last Monday he blamed the high charges – which used more than £7,000 worth of data in one day – on an out-of-date Sim card, insisting to the press that there was no personal use.
But he told Holyrood on Thursday that the bill was prompted by his sons using the iPad as a hotspot so they could watch football while on holiday.
He said that when he found out what had happened, he agreed to return all charges to the Scottish Parliament.
Asked about the issue after chairing the annual review of NHS Forth Valley, the health secretary said he had described what happened in “great detail in my personal statement to Parliament”.
Asked directly if he had lied to the press, Mr Matheson said: “I looked at all the circumstances and explained how I handled it during my personal statement last week.”
But he said he was now “focused on making sure I do my job as Health Secretary to support the health and social care system in Scotland” over the winter term.
With the Scottish Tories still threatening a no-confidence vote, Mr Matheson said: “I'm sure I'll stand by my record as Health Secretary and what I've done over the last eight or nine months.”
Here he highlighted recent increased investment in both the Scottish Ambulance Service and the hospital at home scheme, which allows patients to receive hospital care at home, as well as the Scottish Government's success in avoiding strike action by NHS workers .
But the Tories accused Mr Matheson, Scottish First Minister Humza Yousaf and Deputy First Minister Shona Robinson of “largely avoiding scrutiny” of the issue following the Health Secretary's statement.
Mr Ross said: “Michael Matheson may have had this sensational account but he cannot continue to get away with this scandal.”
The leader of the Scottish Conservatives said the health secretary “lied to the press and the public about whether this parliamentary apparatus had been used for personal purposes”.
Mr Ross added: “His personal statement last week allowed a very limited time for questioning. A significant number of questions remain completely unanswered.
That is why my party is asking for significant parliamentary time to be set aside to allow Michael Matheson to make another statement and to allow us extensive questions to get answers.”
The Tories insisted the public had “lost confidence in the Health Secretary”, adding: “Until he resigns or Humza Yousaf does the right thing and sacks him, my party will continue to use every possible method in Parliament to demand accountability by Michael Matheson. for his lies and lack of answers.”
A spokesman for Mr Matheson said: “Mr Matheson is focused on his responsibilities as Scottish Health Secretary ahead of what is expected to be a difficult winter for the health service.”
He added: “The timetable for the Scottish Parliament is a matter for the Parliamentary Bureau – the Conservatives have their own opportunities to bring things forward.”
Speaking on BBC Radio 4's Broadcasting House program on Sunday, the Prime Minister defended Mr Matheson as a ‘man of integrity' and added: ‘To me, Michael – who I have known for 15 years – is a man of integrity. , sincerity.
“He should have handled the situation better, Michael knows that and he apologized for it.”
However, Mr Yousaf said the health minister had not misled him on the matter.