OF COURSE, judged by any reasonable measure of what voters deem to be acceptable behaviour in high public office Michael Matheson probably should resign. The Health Secretary first of all passed on his £11,000 iPad bill to the public, despite knowing that this hadn’t been incurred by engaging in government business.

Then, when asked about this he chose to fib about it, having given an incomplete explanation of its accumulation to his boss, the First Minister of Scotland.

Having been dragged into Parliament finally to explain himself, his personal statement had so many moving parts that John le Carre would have devoted an entire chapter to it: Tinker Tailor Soldier Lie. The action had taken place over the course of a short break in Morocco during which Mr Matheson nevertheless felt compelled to carry out work on behalf of his constituents.

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However, his two sons had hacked into his mobile data for the purposes of watching some football fixtures. So masterful and secretive had this data breach been that Mr Matheson only discovered it a few weeks ago.

If Scotland ever does gain its independence in the near future it will necessitate the establishment of our very own national intelligence agency. I know just the young scallywags who could head it up.

“Any previous experience in high-level, geopolitical surveillance operations?”

“Aye; we hacked into a government mainframe and weren’t discovered for the best part of a year.”

By all accounts it would seem that Mr Matheson is a thoroughly decent sort who’s been entrusted with several front-line cabinet position by three different First Ministers. He hasn’t especially excelled at any of them, but nor has he made any startling errors of judgment.

Unlike several of his cabinet colleagues he hasn’t been guilty of gas-lighting gender-critical women on social media. His support for Humza Yousaf during the SNP leadership contest was not accompanied by any infantile mud-slinging aimed at the two female candidates in the running.

Yet, what’s most puzzling about Mr Matheson’s iPad imbroglio is that it didn’t seem to occur to him that there might have been an issue here and that it was likely at some point to be uncovered. Just to remove any doubt, might it not have been best simply to pony up for the 11 big ones and put it down to an oversight? After all, he’s been at Holyrood for 24 years and possesses one of the glitziest political CV in the devolved era. That’s a lot to lose over an eleven grand phone bill.

The Herald: Former First Minister Nicola SturgeonFormer First Minister Nicola Sturgeon (Image: free)

He was either then just plain stupid (which we’re assured he’s certainly not), or he felt that – one way or another – it was no big deal. Perhaps he was complacent in the knowledge that if you’re one of the favoured few the paraphernalia of high public office always comes with a handy Get Out of Jail Free Card.

This is why Mr Matheson will probably ride out this storm, for if we’re applying the Trust principle here then there’s a massive plea in mitigation: Mr Matheson belongs to a party and a government that in the Sturgeon/Yousaf era thinks good faith is a gaseous, shape-shifting concept to which only schmucks and losers sign up.

So baked in to the SNP’s concept of governance are duplicity, arrogance and intimidation of their own MPs and MSPs that – over time – these become their basic instincts. Their moral compass becomes so distorted that – quite literally – they can no longer tell what’s right and what’s wrong; what’s acceptable and what’s not.

The only moral and ethical codes they abide by are determined by three considerations: can they get away with it; will they ever be held accountable for it and can they use the deflector shields provided by a million pounds worth of advisers and media assistants. Actually, there’s a fourth: can we use the cover of Wheesht for Indy to ensure the idiot punters keep voting for us anyway.

In recent years, whenever these questions arise about the Scottish Government’s ethical and professional conduct the answer has always been a resounding Yes. And by the way you’ve got a cheek for even asking.

Somewhere in central Scotland there’s a police pound containing a £110k Niesmann & Bischoff camper van purchased for, as yet, undetermined purposes by the party high command. Meanwhile, the whereabouts of assorted fancy goods reportedly bought on an Amazon account remain subject to speculation.

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Police Scotland may yet deem none of these to have been obtained through illegal means. But when the matter of party finances was raised in NEC group meetings Nicola Sturgeon, then First Minister, was heard to rebuke the questioner for having had the gall to chin her about it.

Her successor, Mr Yousaf failed adequately to refute detailed claims by a former ministerial colleague that he’d missed a crucial vote on Equal Marriage by setting up a bogus prior diary commitment.

The party’s deputy Westminster leader, Mhairi Black was recently reported to have effectively blackmailed the party into endorsing one of her parliamentary aides for inclusion on its preferred list of candidates for the next UK election.

For several years, women in the party who have expressed doubts about issues around self-ID in the proposed GRR legislation say the Westminster Group has orchestrated a campaign of bullying and intimidation against them.

In what was perhaps the most egregiously callous statement made by any government minister in the devolved era Shona Robison dismissed such concerns by insisting that there was no evidence of predatory men pretending to be anything other than themselves to abuse women and girls. Since then, there’s been a slew of cases (well, the ones we know about at least) proving how stupid her statement was. Yet, this government continues to hand millions each year to organisations who also believe this dangerous nonsense.

A similar amount also goes to favoured agencies in the lucrative addiction sector rather than to fund rehab facilities, the only proven way of permanently curing people of this illness. Last year, The Herald reported that the Scottish Government spent almost £50k on the fanfare launch of a new ferry in 2017, despite knowing that it was nowhere near ready for service. Nicola Sturgeon thus presided over an event featuring “an unfinished vessel which had painted-on windows, 'fake' funnels connected to 'pretend' engines and the incorrect bow fitted”.

So, by all means you can call for Michael Matheson to resign. But if you’re going to get all dewy-eyed about trust issues, well … that commodity departed from this government a long, long time ago.

Beyond that, Mr Matheson’s iPad bill exists at the trifling end of their myriad malfeasances.