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Matheson focused on ‘very important’ job, says cabinet colleague

By PA News

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Michael Matheson is focused on his “very important job” as the health service goes into winter, a cabinet colleague said as she offered the Health Secretary her backing.

Rural Affairs Secretary Mairi Gougeon said she had confidence in Mr Matheson following revelations about the £11,000 data roaming bill on his parliamentary iPad.

Last week, the Health Secretary made an emotional statement to MSPs in which he revealed his teenage sons had run up the costs by using the device to watch football while on a family holiday in Morocco.

The Conservatives have threatened to lodge a motion of no confidence in him at Holyrood, saying there are still unanswered questions about his actions.

Mairi Gougeon backed the Health Secretary (Andrew Milligan/PA)
Mairi Gougeon backed the Health Secretary (Andrew Milligan/PA)

Ms Gougeon was asked about the Health Secretary as she launched one of the Scottish Government’s independence prospectus papers in Dunbar, East Lothian.

She told the PA news agency: “Michael Matheson has got a job – a very important job – to do as Health Secretary as we’re going into the winter period and that’s where his focus is.”

She said it is right that a parliamentary investigation into the matter goes ahead.

Her statement came after SNP deputy leader Keith Brown said there is “no shortage” of opportunities to scrutinise Mr Matheson at Holyrood.

Speaking to the BBC’s Good Morning Scotland programme, Mr Brown said his SNP colleague is someone of “integrity and honesty” – something Humza Yousaf has also said.

He said: “There’s absolutely no shortage of opportunities for not just the Tories, any party, any individual MSP, to make inquiries of this through the proper channels in the Parliament.

Keith Brown has defended the Health Secretary as a man of integrity (Andrew Milligan/PA)
Keith Brown has defended the Health Secretary as a man of integrity (Andrew Milligan/PA)

“I think the wise thing to do is to wait until the Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body has a look at this and comes back to this with all the information that people may want.”

Mr Brown said he has full confidence in the Health Secretary, adding: “I’ve known Michael for a very long time, before he entered Parliament when he worked in the social work.

“It’s my view, and I’ve seen nothing to change this view, that Michael is somebody of integrity and honesty.”

The Health Secretary spoke to journalists on Monday, saying his earlier statement to Parliament had gone into “great detail”.

Asked directly if he had lied to the press, Mr Matheson stated: “I set out all the circumstances and explained the way in which I’d handled it in the course of my personal statement last week.”

However, he said he was now “focused on making sure I do my job as Health Secretary in supporting the health and social care system in Scotland” over the winter period.

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