Michael Matheson has said his teenage sons are to blame for an £11,000 data roaming bill.

The Health Secretary told MSPs that the eyewatering costs were run up by the boys watching football during a family trip to Morrocco at the start of the year.

In a personal statement in Holyrood, a clearly emotional Mr Matheson told colleagues that he only learned about their use of his parliamentary iPad last Thursday, following days of media scrutiny over his staggering expenses claim. 

However, on Monday, when asked directly if there was "any personal use" of the device during the family holiday, he told reporters: "No”

He admitted to the chamber that he had made mistakes but that he was trying to protect his family.

READ MORE: Michael Matheson visit to Glasgow pulled amid iPad row

Despite the extortionate bill, he said he initially did not know "what had caused the high charges."

Initially, the SNP minister was going to pay £3,000 towards the cost from his expenses budget, with the Scottish Parliament paying the rest.

It was on Friday, after he learned about his sons' use of the device that he and the family said they would pay the full charge. 

The Herald:

He told MSPs: "I had not used the iPad for any purpose other than parliamentary and constituency business and so could not understand how the cost could be so high.

"Parliament confirmed the network provider was unable to give them further details of what led to the charges.

"In the absence of a clear explanation of how such a large bill could have happened, I thought it appropriate to make a contribution, through office allowances, of £3,000 towards the cost."

He said it was last week following the media outcry over his five figure data bill that he "was made aware by my wife that other members of our family had made use of the iPad’s data."

"This was the first I knew that the data had been used by anyone else," he said. "I had previously checked this but the truth only emerged after this story was in the news."

"I should have pressed harder," the minister said. "Perhaps I should have been less willing to believe what I had been told."

The minister said he took full responsibility.

"In my statement issued last Friday, I made no reference to the use of data by my family.

"As a parent, I wanted to protect them from being part of the political and media scrutiny associated with this, something I believe any parent would want to do.

"I am a father first and foremost. That was a mistake and I am sorry.

"I can see now that it just isn’t possible to explain the data usage without explaining their role.

"The simple truth is they watched football matches."

He claimed that his children had tethered to the iPad, using it as a wifi hotspot. This was, he added, something they had done before. 

The Health Minister's bill was released by the Scottish Parliament on Wednesday night. It showed that he had run up a bill of £10,935.74 for using roughly 7GB of data between December 28 and January 3.

A breakdown shows Mr Matheson incurred the highest charges on December 28, where 1.26 GB of data cost £2,249.17, and January 2, where 3.89GB of data cost £8666.39. 

Celtic played Hibs on the 28th and Rangers on January 2.

The Herald: Mr Matheson said he had now paid the bill in full and would refer himself for investigation to the Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body (SPCB) under the code of conduct.

He made clear to MSPs that he “did not knowingly run up the roaming charges bill”.

But he accepted that the bill had, in part, come about as a result of him “not updating the SIM card” in the device as demanded by Holyrood when they switched contract.

He said he also recognised that he should have informed the Parliament in advance of the trip that he would be taking the iPad with him.

There was some sympathy for Mr Matheson, but MSPs were sceptical of his ignorance around the massive bill.

Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross said he believed Parliament and the public had been misled.

He said: "During that statement, Michael Matheson said he could not understand how he had racked up so much data roaming charges.

"He went on to say he could not explain the data usage.

"But of course, he did explain the data usage. He told this parliament when he claimed for expenses, that it was a legitimate expense.

"He promised the parliament, it was a legitimate expense. He gave this parliament written assurances, it was a legitimate expense.

"If it has now transpired that his son was watching football why did he claim he was doing parliamentary work?

"Can he say if he cannot understand at the time or could not explain the data usage, how he could 100% say to the Parliament when claiming £11,000 of taxpayers' money that he was doing parliamentary work?

"The two stories do not align." 

Mr Ross later confirmed that his party will bring forward a vote of no confidence against the SNP minister. 

READ MORE: Scottish Parliament publishes Matheson's £11k data roaming bill|

Scottish Labour deputy leader Jackie Baillie said it was "simply unfathomable that Michael Matheson thinks he can keep his job after deceiving the public and parliament over his actions."

“Anyone with teenage children will understand the situation – what they will not understand or forgive is the cover-up," she added.

"I have to ask, why didn't he investigate the use of data when it was raised with him consistently by parliamentary authorities? Why is it only now that he asked his family what actually happened?"

Mr Matheson replied: "I did ask, and [the Scottish Parliament's IT department] sought to try and get further details from the network operator on exactly what the iPad had accrued charges for, and the network operator were unable to provide that information. 

"I also discussed the matter with my family and received assurances at that time. 

"Had I known that my family had made use of the data at that time, I would have met the costs associated with that. 

"But I did not know that. 

"Which is why at that time, I could not understand how the costs had been accrued. 

"When it became apparent that we had accrued the costs as a result of actions within my family we took the immediate decision to reimburse the full amount to the parliament." 

Mr Matheson spoke briefly to journalists on his way out of the chamber. He was asked directly if he had attempted to resign. He said no. 

Asked if he had watched the football, he said: "I didn't watch the football and I didn't know the football was being watched either"

The minister was also quizzed on how his sons had managed to watch the game, as it was only being streamed by Sky.

The broadcaster confirmed to The Herald that their content was "not available to be streamed abroad."

Mr Matheson did not answer the question.

Earlier in the day, Humza Yousaf said he still had full confidence in his Health Secretary.

“I do understand in our politics, the very first place we all go to is to think the very worst of each other,” he said.

“I hold my hands up. I've often done that myself and been guilty of it too.

“But honest mistakes do happen.

“Michael has been a member of this Parliament since its inception, all of us who have worked with him, know that he is a man of honesty, and indeed of integrity.

“So instead of rushing to besmirch each other's character perhaps our politics will be a little better if we give each other the benefit of the doubt.”

He added later: “I do have absolute confidence in Michael Matheson as a Cabinet Secretary for Health.”