Alister Jack offers to help hand Scots the power to sack MSPs

Humza Yousaf and Michael Matheson
Humza Yousaf has so far refused to denounce his former health secretary - Getty Images/Ken Jack
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Alister Jack has offered to help Humza Yousaf hand Scots the power to sack MSPs after the disgraced former SNP health secretary, Michael Matheson, went missing from Holyrood.

The Scottish Secretary offered to help the First Minister legislate to introduce a “recall mechanism” so that parliamentarians guilty of wrongdoing could be removed from office, suggesting that doing so would boost Scottish democracy.

While he did not mention by name Mr Matheson, who was found to have breached Holyrood rules by seeking to claim back an £11,000 iPad data bill from taxpayers, the intervention is designed to increase pressure on Mr Yousaf to denounce his ally.

Mr Matheson on Thursday appeared to attempt to rubbish claims that he was off sick from Holyrood by posting photos of himself on social media attending a schools event in his constituency.

Scottish Tory sources, however, confirmed that they had been informed that the former SNP health secretary, who has not been seen at Holyrood since he quit the role six weeks ago, was “unwell and unable to work”.

Mr Matheson is facing demands to quit as an MSP after a Holyrood investigation found he had breached rules three separate times by his conduct in relation to the £11,000 iPad roaming bill which was racked up while he was on a family holiday in Morocco.

He initially claimed the sum back from taxpayers, telling authorities his device had been used only for work purposes, but his story unravelled under scrutiny and he later admitted his sons had used it to stream football matches without his knowledge.

If he refuses to resign, voters have no means of removing him until the next Holyrood election in 2026. However, Mr Jack offered to share the UK Parliament’s experience of introducing its own recall legislation, which has been in place since 2015.

Michael Matheson
Michael Matheson's woes began when he racked up a £11,000 iPad roaming bill while on a family holiday in Morocco. - PA/Andrew Milligan

“I note there has been debate and commentary on a lack of a recall mechanism for members of the Scottish Parliament,” Mr Jack told Mr Yousaf in a letter. “I am writing to offer the UK Government’s assistance in introducing a recall mechanism for MSPs.

“I would be very happy to discuss how the procedures operate within the UK Parliament and options for introducing a mechanism in the Scottish Parliament.

“The UK Government stands ready to work with the Scottish Government in making improvements in this area of such importance to the health of our democracy.”

‘A decent man who made a mistake’

The SNP government had asked the Scottish Tories to “pair” with Mr Matheson for this week’s votes at Holyrood, and possibly next week’s, claiming he was off sick.

Pairing is an informal arrangement in which a party agrees to have one of its MSPs abstain in votes so an opposing party is not disadvantaged if one of their members is unable to attend for reasons outside of their control. The request was turned down.

At Westminster, voters in a constituency are able to force a by-election if an MP is suspended from the House for 10 sitting days, or are convicted of an offence of making false or misleading expenses claims.

Mr Matheson’s punishment is to be considered by Holyrood’s standard’s committee, which discussed the matter on Thursday but is yet to reach a decision. This could include him being suspended from parliament, which would pile huge pressure on him to resign as an MSP. Mr Yousaf has so far refused to disown Mr Matheson, insisting he is a “decent” man who made a “mistake”.

A Scottish Conservative spokesman said: “The SNP and Michael Matheson must clarify whether the former health secretary is off sick or not. If he is fit to work, then his constituents should not have to put up with a part-time MSP who neglects his duties in parliament.”

On Thursday morning, hours after it was reported that he was off sick, Mr Matheson posted on X, formerly known as Twitter, that he had attended an education event at which five schools from Falkirk had presented solutions to industrial challenges.

He added: “Well done to @StMungosFalkirk for participating and for an excellent presentation on hydrogen..”

The SNP was approached for comment.

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