Michael Matheson, I feel sure, will have elicited a considerable amount of sympathy with his Holyrood statement – and not just for his tearful, hesitant explanation.

I am talking about the joys of computers. Finding that his phone did not work on holiday in Morocco, he consulted Parliamentary IT.

The solution? Take the sim card out – and put it back. In short, turn the thing off and turn it on again. The answer to life, the universe and everything.

Then he experienced problems with his laptop. The solution? Get your teenage kids to set up a hotspot.

We have been there, haven’t we? The IT experts who contrive to help us and pity us in the same breath. The kids who assist while deploying an alien tongue.

So sympathy. And yet, my friends, and yet. This is not good.

It would appear that the huge Hogmanay holiday bill for roaming charges – in themselves a scandal – was run up by the offspring watching football.

Perhaps the Old Firm game on January 2. It ended in a score draw. Maybe, as I write, that is where we are with Mr Matheson. In extra time.

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Let us look at the points for Mr Matheson – and the points against. The defence and prosecution, if you like.

On the plus side, he apologised unreservedly. In doing so, he showed an emotional side which has seldom been seen from this most contained of ministers.

He was, he said, a father first and foremost. His latter actions had been designed to protect his teenage sons, once he finally learned that the big bill was soccer related.
Secondly, for the defence, he has now paid back the entire £11,000 cost incurred. As I understand it, this arose as a bill to be met by Parliament, rather than a personalised expense claim.

Rather a large bill. An eye-watering bill, given that it covered just a few days in North Africa. A bill he queried. A bill which neither IT nor the service provider could explain.

A bill which initially prompted him to offer a contribution of £3000 because he could not comprehend its size. He had, he insisted, only used the laptop for parliamentary and constituency business, without any indication that there would be a problem.
Yes, he let that bill ride for a prolonged period. But, when the truth finally emerged, he paid up to ensure that the public purse was not affected.

The Herald: SNP Health Secretary Michael Matheson

Thirdly on the plus side, Mr Matheson has referred himself to further inquiry by Holyrood’s governing Corporate Body under Section 7 of Parliament’s code of conduct for MSPs.

On checking, I learn that this covers the “general conduct of MSPs” – that is, the stuff not encompassed in specific sections.

I would imagine that Mr Matheson is referring in particular to sub-section 4 which states that “no improper use should be made of any payment or allowance made to members for public purposes”.

The Corporate Body, chaired by the Presiding Officer, will now presumably decide whether to chide him for a self-confessed breach of that sub-section – or whether to exculpate him on the grounds of his subsequent conduct, upon discovery of the breach.

So much for the defence. How about the points against? Firstly, he should not have allowed potential IT problems to develop.

In particular, he admits he should have responded, rapidly, to the suggestions from Parliamentary IT that he replace his sim card. Seems self-evident.

Secondly, he should not have jeopardised security by allowing his teenage sons to have any access at all to his parliamentary account.

Read More: Michael Matheson statement to Scottish Parliament in full

It appears they made discreet use of the hotspot they had helped establish. That is, rather than necessarily using the laptop itself (or so I understand from translating comments by those better versed in such matters.)

Whether in Holyrood or on holiday in North Africa, he should have made specific provision to protect data security. That is a clear and measurable failure.

But there is a third point. The one which most evidently exercised Opposition politicians when they responded to his personal statement.

He apparently learned about the football viewing on Thursday of last week. Yet, at the beginning of this week he was still telling journalists that the problems arose from his sim card. He was not, in short, straight with the public.

His defence? That he wanted to protect his sons from media and political scrutiny. Which is understandable and, as noted, provoked sympathy.

He said in his personal statement that he should have been more vigorous in pursuing the issue. He should have asked again – and then again – how the charges had arisen.

The Herald: Health secretary Michael Matheson in Holyrood

I expect he now realises that it was also a mistake to seek, even by omission, to conceal the true cause of the problem, if only for a few days.

For one thing, it made things worse for the First Minister who was defending his health secretary. According to Mr Matheson, the FM was only told the truth on Tuesday of this week, as preparations were made for the personal statement. Not good.

I was intrigued by the response to that personal statement. They are extremely rare events – and, on this occasion, standing orders were suspended by cross-party agreement to allow Mr Matheson, exceptionally, to face questions on his statement.

In the event, questions from Opposition parties were somewhat constrained. They criticised – yet empathised too.

Perhaps they were adhering to the Code of Conduct, Section 7, sub-section 5 – which specifies that members must treat other MSPs “with courtesy and respect”.

No, I don’t think so either. This was personal, not political or constitutional. In the chamber, Mr Matheson’s delivery was halting and poignant.

It is one thing attacking an opponent. It is another to deliver those barbs directly to his face – when he is close to tears, as he supports his family.

To be quite clear, however, Opposition leaders made plain that they did not regard the statement as closing the matter.

And, outside the subdued chamber, they issued written demands for his resignation or sacking as a minister.

Michael Matheson knows he got this wrong, repeatedly. He knows. The issue now is how badly wrong.