This article appears as part of the Unspun: Scottish Politics newsletter.

We're now inured to the very worst that politics has to offer thanks to the endless tide of sludge that flows from Westminster.

So, it would be pleasing if Holyrood could try to show a somewhat more principled approach to ministerial conduct, government transparency, responsibility, and the dignity democracy deserves.

When a minister misleads parliament or lies to the media, it’s time to go. There should be no whataboutery, no ifs or buts, no hems and haws. If you lie, pack your ministerial bags and vacate the office which voters have temporarily allowed you to fill.

So in the plainest of terms: Michael Matheson, the Health Secretary, has lied, and so he must either resign or Humza Yousaf should sack him. It’s that simple.

Matheson is seemingly a decent person. That’s all well and good; let’s accept that. However, the truth hasn’t been told.

The facts in the case are straightforward. Matheson was holidaying in Morocco where he ran up an astonishing £11,000 data roaming bill on his parliamentary iPad.

After a pointless period of shilly-shallying, he finally admitted that his teenage sons were to blame as they watched football.

However, on Monday when asked directly if there was “any personal use” of the device, Matheson told reporters “no”. Yet, in his personal statement to Holyrood, Matheson said he had learned last Thursday about his sons using the iPad.

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Those two claims cannot both be true. If Matheson knew last Thursday that his sons used the iPad, then he lied on Monday when he told reporters there’d been no personal use of the device.

It’s entirely understandable Matheson should wish to protect his children. Any parent would. However, not all parents are ministers.

Matheson could have protected his sons without lying. He could have said there was personal use of the iPad as football had been watched and left it at that.

It would have been embarrassing but not a resignation issue. An apology would have sufficed.

Among the SNP there’s been much sneering at this story. ‘Surely there are graver issues in Britain and the world?’ they say.

There are indeed much graver issues. But that’s no reason to abandon the norms of parliamentary democracy.

The Herald: Michael Matheson said the use of roaming data on his iPad was a result of his children watching footballMichael Matheson said the use of roaming data on his iPad was a result of his children watching football (Image: Newsquest)
The SNP rightly goes for the jugular every time the Conservative government acts in a flagrantly disrespectful way toward democracy or repeatedly undermines parliamentary ethics and standards.

What’s sauce for the goose, is sauce for the gander. You cannot have it both ways. Standards aren’t just applicable when they hold your political opponents to account.

When rival Holyrood politicians have been under the spotlight, the SNP was straight off the block calling for sackings and resignations.

One need only think of the former Labour first minister Henry McLeish. A decent man who resigned. Then there was the former Scottish Conservative leader David McLetchie, and former Scottish Labour leader Wendy Alexander, who also both stood down.

This is a simple matter of principles and standards. Either the SNP cares about the rules and regulations that govern our democracy, or it doesn’t. It’s that straightforward.

Read Neil every Friday in the Unspun newsletter.

By failing to nip this in the bud, Humza Yousaf only makes another rod for his own back. Politicians caught up in such events always end up going. Matheson will eventually either quit or be pushed. The longer this drags on, however, the worse it becomes and the weaker Yousaf appears to voters.

Cauterise the wound and move on. Matheson’s career won’t be ruined by this. He can spend some time on the back-benches and when penance is done he can make a return. But for now, democracy demands he must go.