Minister Michael Matheson racks up £11k roaming fee on parliament iPad

Michael Matheson
Michael Matheson racked up nearly £11,000 in roaming charges on a parliament iPad while abroad last year

A Scottish government minister racked up nearly £11,000 in roaming costs on his parliament iPad while in Morocco.

Michael Matheson said he was using the device for constituency work, but had not switched over to the parliament's current mobile contract.

Officials tried to challenge the bill, but the company declined to waive any of the charges.

Mr Matheson has agreed to pay £3,000 towards the bill from his expenses budget.

The Scottish Parliament has said it will pay the remainder from its own budget.

Roaming charges are incurred when a mobile device connects to a local network outside of the UK rather than to wi-fi.

According to The Telegraph, which first reported the story, Mr Matheson took the iPad with him on a week-long visit to Morocco with his family around Christmas last year.

A spokesperson for Mr Matheson told the paper he was not aware of a "problem with his device at the time, which has since been resolved".

This was said to have involved an old sim card in the iPad, which had not been replaced, the paper said.

At the time the Falkirk West MSP was the net zero, energy and transport secretary in Nicola Sturgeon's government, but he has since been appointed health secretary under Humza Yousaf.

How do data roaming charges work?


Roaming charges are the higher prices that mobile networks charge for your device use when abroad.

It has always been more expensive the moment you leave Europe, with some providers charging £7 a megabyte for data and nearly £4 a minute to make or receive a phone call, according to personal finance site MoneySavingExpert.

The Scottish Parliament has not revealed which mobile phone provider Michael Matheson's iPad was using at the time of his holiday, but the costs for using your device overseas can vary wildly depending on the contract.

Some companies offer daily charges. For instance, you can pay £5 a day for worldwide use and you will be able to use your phone or tablet just as you do at home.

The advice from personal finance writers is always the same: If in doubt, play it safe and turn roaming off.

A spokesperson for the Scottish Parliament confirmed the total of roaming charges incurred by Mr Matheson was £10,935.74.

They said: "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 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."

'Eye-watering bill'

Craig Hoy, the Scottish Conservatives chairman, called on Mr Matheson to pay the full bill from his own pocket.

He said: "It's absolutely scandalous that taxpayers are picking up an enormous tab for Michael Matheson's mistake.

He said: "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 wifi where he was staying or check with the network provider to avoid brutal roaming charges."

Dame Jackie Baillie, Scottish Labour's deputy leader, called the situation "mind-boggling".

She said: "What on earth could Mr Matheson have been doing to justify the public coughing up for this - the SNP is 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."

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