The Scottish health secretary has resigned, before the publication of an investigation into how he racked up a near-£11,000 bill on his work iPad.
Michael Matheson, who announced his decision three hours before he was due to make a statement on raising the minimum unit price for alcoholic drinks in Scotland by 30% as part of measures to prevent alcohol-related deaths, said he did not want to “become a distraction”.
Matheson was being investigated by Holyrood authorities after he admitted his sons had used his iPad to watch football matches on their Christmas holiday in Morocco, running up a £10,935 data roaming bill.
In his resignation letter to Humza Yousaf, Matheson told the first minister he had still not received the report from the Scottish parliamentary corporate body, which began its investigation last November.
Matheson said: “However, it is in the best interest of myself and the government for me to now step down to ensure this does not become a distraction to taking forward the government’s agenda.”
In the letter, Matheson highlighted his achievements in government but did not directly address the concerns over his spending or apologise for what had happened.
It has been reported that he had been given a copy of the corporate body’s investigation and that it contained new evidence about his conduct.
Matheson had initially claimed that the iPad bill was so large because he had not realised his sim card was out of date and no longer in contract, but insisted it was a legitimate parliamentary expense.
Holyrood officials accepted his word, and agreed that £3,000 of that would be paid through his office expenses while the remainder would be funded by parliament. Matheson knew in February that £8,666 was incurred on 2 January.
He then revealed to MSPs in November that his wife had told him a week earlier his sons had admitted using his iPad at a hotspot to stream a match between bitter rivals Celtic and Rangers on that January date.
Yousaf said he accepted Matheson’s resignation “with sadness” and that he had given the country “tremendous service”, but that it was “best for you to now step down to ensure you are able to give the parliamentary process the attention it deserves without it becoming a distraction to taking forward the government’s agenda”.
The resignation comes a day after Elena Whitham, the drugs and alcohol policy minister, stepped down after revealing she was suffering from post-traumatic stress alongside increasing pressure on the Scottish government over waiting list times.