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EDWARD MOUNTAIN: How Michael Matheson racked up £11,000 in roaming charges is beyond me

By Scott Maclennan

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Health Secretary Michael Matheson.
Health Secretary Michael Matheson.

As a result of a petition being submitted to the Scottish Parliament Citizens Participation and Public Petitions Committee, they have been reviewing the lack of progress on the dualling of the A9. This has started to shine a bright light on the inactivity of the Scottish Government.

Recent evidence given by the 2011 Transport Minister, Alex Neil, suggested that there was a fully costed and funded plan including a detailed timetable to achieve the complete dualling of the A9 between Perth by 2025. The question is what happened?

What we know is that this government has abjectly failed to deliver on their promise to completely dualling the A9 between Perth and Inverness by 2025. Indeed, they have only done three small sections. Worse still, there are now suggestions that it could take until 2050 for the work to be completed between Inverness and Perth.

Whatever defence will be offered, this delay will not only cost us more money, but it has also, more importantly, cost lives. I doubt there are many Highlanders who do not know of someone who has been tragically killed on this dangerous road.

There is no doubt in my mind that the inactivity of this government is actually costing lives. It is time for them to stop this senseless loss by getting on with the plan they had in 2011 and have singularly failed to implement.

The committee is now seeking evidence from the previous First Minister and her Deputy. It will be interesting to see if they deny any culpability for the delay and whether they did indeed prioritise expenditure in the central belt rather than the Highlands.

This last week has been a bad week for the health minister, Michael Matheson, who appears to have racked up £11,000 worth of internet surfing charges whilst on his holiday in Morocco.

A charge that was picked up by the parliament as he claimed it was all used as part of his official business representing his constituents. Quite how you can incur nearly £1,600 per day of roaming charges on a family holiday is beyond me, surely, he spent some time with his wife and children?

Firstly, we had his denials that he had done anything wrong, then we had absolute confidence in him being expressed by the First Minister and then we had the ‘about turn’. The about turn resulted in him rightly repaying the full £11,000 to the parliament.

No other employer I know would have accepted his excuses and borne his costs, especially as his current salary is close to £120,000.

Backbench MSPs know their expenses are carefully scrutinised and I have even had justify a minor overspend of £35.50 on our overnight accommodation allowance (I was staying in the cheapest hotel). So, it is particularly galling to see this sort of gross over expenditure being accepted and paid until challenged.

His forced repayment was correct, just a pity he didn’t do it before it looked like he might lose his job.

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