Holyrood's standards committee has called for Michael Matheson to be suspended for 27 days over his £11,000 iPad expenses scandal.

The cross-party group of MSPs also called for his salary to be withdrawn for 54 days, a financial penalty roughly equivalent to the size of the ex-health secretary's data roaming bill. 

It is one of the harshest sanctions ever meted out by the committee.

There was some disagreement over the length of the suspension with the two SNP MSPs on the five-member panel saying it was too long.

Parliament will now vote on whether to approve the recommendations.

READ MORE: Michael Matheson breached MSP's code of conduct

Opposition parties have called on Mr Matheson to stand down as MSP and trigger a by-election.

Had he been suspended for more than ten days at Westminster it would have automatically triggered a recall petition which would have given his constituents the power to oust him.

However, there is no such mechanism at Holyrood.

The MSP first came under scrutiny last November when the Daily Telegraph uncovered a £10,935.74 data roaming bill.

He initially agreed to pay £3,000 from his taxpayer-funded expenses, with the Scottish Parliament picking up the rest.

However, days later, after journalists and MSPs queried the charge, he agreed to pay the full amount from his own pocket.

The Herald:

At first, he claimed the bill was the result of parliamentary work while on a family holiday in Morrocco and a misunderstanding with a new sim card.

He then told MSPs in an emotional statement on November 16 that he had discovered his sons had been watching football during the family trip.

He said he had been told by his wife on November 9 that the teenagers had used his parliamentary device as a wifi hotspot.

READ MORE: Matheson a 'decent person who made a mistake' insists Yousaf

However, on November 13, when asked directly if there was "any personal use" of the device during the family holiday, he told reporters: "No”

It also emerged that he met with parliamentary authorities, including Presiding Officer Alison Johnstone during the period and did not tell them his boys were responsible for racking up the charges.

In his statement, Mr Whitfield said "the standards of conduct expected from Members of the Scottish Parliament" had not been met by Mr Matheson. 

"In his statement to the Parliament and representations to both the SPCB and the Committee, Mr Matheson has set out that since becoming aware of the circumstances in which the data usage occurred, he has been motivated by seeking to protect his family.

"Mr Matheson has described the significant impact that there has been on his family. The Committee acknowledges the impact of the significant media and other intrusions which took place on Mr Matheson and his family.

"However, the obligations all Members have under the Code, the Expenses Scheme and relevant SPCB policies are of paramount importance in upholding the integrity of the Scheme and the ethical standards framework, flowing from the Nolan Principles that underpin the conduct of parliamentary duties.

"Any failure to meet those obligations has an adverse impact on the reputation of the Expenses Scheme, Members and the Parliament as a whole."

He said the committee were concerned that despite knowing that his sons were behind the eye-watering, Mr Matheson did not tell the parliamentary authorities, including the Presiding Officer, "more timeously."

Mr Whitfield said the committee was unanimous on the need for a sanction. He said they agreed on a "withdrawal of salary for a period of 54 calendar days."

The call for a 27 day suspension was made by Tory MSP Annie Wells and backed by her colleague Oliver Mundell.

The SNP's Jackie Dunbar and Alasdair Allan did not agree. 

Mr Allan said they recognised the need for our financial penalty in this case, "and in an effort to reach consensus on the committee we have supported the figure agreed though we do take the view that it is certainly on the high end of the range of sanctions available."

He added: "On the issue of suspension from the chamber, we likewise recognize the need for a penalty of that kind but we voted against the figure of 27 days, given that this was extremely high compared to any sanctions and previous cases."

Mr Mundell said the harsh sanction was necessary "given the significant damage to the reputation of the parliament, on public trust in it and its members."

He added: "And it's clear to me from the evidence we have considered that those who have sent us here would not look kindly at a short suspension from one of our own, when many in the real world would have faced the very real possibility of losing their job under the circumstances."

Month-long bans have been handed out before. The Scottish Socialist Party's MSPs in 2005 were penalised for disrupting chamber business by protesting about the G8 summit.

Ex-SNP minister Mark McDonald was also suspended for a month for twice breaking the MSPs code of conduct.

READ MORE: Lorna Slater rules out vote pact with SNP in tight seats

Scottish Labour Deputy Dame Leader Jackie Baillie said the committee's verdict on Matheson was "damning."

She said it was "yet another sorry chapter for an SNP government collapsing under the weight of its own sleaze."

Dame Jackie added: “Michael Matheson has treated the public with contempt and the upper echelons of the SNP closed ranks to try and protect him, putting the party interest before the national interest.

“It cannot be right that an MSP can ride roughshod over the rules without the public getting a chance to boot them out – Scottish Labour would introduce a Right to Recall as part of our plans to clean up Holyrood."

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton said: “Michael Matheson has lost the confidence of Parliament and the public. It is now difficult to see how he can continue to represent his constituents."

He added: “There must be consequences for politicians and the decision about whether someone is fit to remain in post should ultimately rest with the people who put them there. Even the UK Parliament has had legislation applying to the recall of MPs since 2015."

More to follow...