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Defending Matheson will see ‘Swinney slump’ for SNP, says Labour’s Ian Murray

A Holyrood committee ordered a 27-day suspension for Michael Matheson.

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Labour MP Ian Murray has said the First Minister’s decision to defend Michael Matheson after a Holyrood committee ordered a 27-day suspension will lead to a “Swinney slump” for the SNP on polling day.

It comes as the Scottish Greens disputed newspaper reports they will vote with the SNP to back an amendment reducing the 27-day suspension for Mr Matheson recommended by Holyrood’s standards committee.

Mr Matheson incurred a near-£11,000 data roaming bill on his parliamentary iPad while on a family holiday to Morocco, initially saying the device was used for work purposes before later confessing his teenage sons had used it as a wifi hotspot to stream football.

First Minister John Swinney has claimed the committee’s decision was “prejudiced” by the previous comments of one of its members, Conservative Annie Wells, who had criticised Mr Matheson’s explanation.

Michael Matheson breached MSPs’ code of conduct
Holyrood’s standards committee recommended a 27-day parliamentary ban for Michael Matheson (Jane Barlow/PA)

However the Greens said this is not the case, adding they will support the standards committee’s recommended sanction while calling on the cross-party group to address their concerns about the process.

The Conservatives will table a motion calling for Mr Matheson to resign, but it would not be legally binding and is likely to fall given the Greens are opposed to it.

Mr Murray, Labour’s shadow Scottish secretary, was campaigning in North Lanarkshire on Sunday.

He said: “SNP MPs must be looking at John Swinney’s decision to defend Michael Matheson in absolute despair.

“This a man who attempted to defraud the taxpayer of £11,000 and then lied about it. He’s been caught bang to rights and defending this sleaze will lead to a Swinney slump on July 4.

“The country is crying out for change but John Swinney can’t deliver that because he’s been at the heart of the SNP for decades. He only offers continuity, and we all know continuity won’t cut it.

“People are seeing the SNP leader defending sleaze when they could have Scottish Labour MPs delivering change.”

General Election campaign 2024
John Swinney said he would not stand for ‘prejudice’ in the Scottish Parliament (Lesley Martin/PA)

While he paid back the bill in full and apologised, the standards committee also recommended a 54-day salary suspension.

Mr Swinney said: “We cannot have our national Parliament presiding over prejudice and certainly not prejudice from the Conservatives.”

Asked if Ms Wells’s comment had undermined the entire committee’s decision, he said: “I think when you bring prejudice into a process, you have to recognise the process is damaged as a consequence.

“Now Parliament will sort out these issues, it will address these issues as it considers the (committee’s) report.”

On Saturday evening, a Scottish Greens spokesperson said: “Michael Matheson made a mistake for which he has already been punished, but it is the view of the Green group of MSPs that it is correct that he receives further parliamentary sanction, and we will vote for such action.

“However, we are united in our concern that the standards committee does not appear to have a consistent approach to the level of sanctions proposed, has allowed members to pre-judge the case, and has also seen draft proposals leaked.”

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