FIRST Minister Humza Yousaf defended outgoing health secretary Michael Matheson after he resigned ahead of the outcome of a probe into his £11,000 iPad bill.

In a fiery clash with Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross, where the Presiding Officer had to intervene on numerous occasions due to shouting from both party’s benches, Yousaf insisted that Matheson had “made a mistake”.

Matheson resigned on Thursday morning ahead of the conclusion of a parliamentary probe into the tens of thousands he claimed on expenses.

It emerged that the MSP's children had used a ministerial iPad as a hotspot to watch football matches on a Christmas holiday in Morocco in 2022.

READ MORE: Michael Matheson quits as Scottish health secretary

The weekly session took place less than an hour after Matheson announced his decision to resign as health secretary, saying the row had become a “distraction”.

Yousaf insisted that Matheson, who has served as an MSP since 1999, should be allowed due process to conclude over the row, and blasted that he would not take lessons on standards in public life from the Tories.

During FMQs, Wellbeing Economy Secretary Neil Gray was seen sitting beside Yousaf in Matheson’s regular seat. The National understands that Matheson was not on the parliamentary estate on Thursday.

Ross claimed the FM’s response showed “not a bit of regret” and that Matheson’s resignation was in the MSP's best interests, not the Government's or the public’s.

The Scottish Tory leader then criticised the lack of an apology in Matheson’s resignation letter.

Yousaf replied that “mistakes can happen”, pointing to the time Ross forgot to declare tens of thousands of pounds of income, adding that he did not face calls to resign at the time.

The FM also pointed to Matheson’s personal statement to Holyrood last year where he did apologise.

Ross responded that the iPad row served as a distraction for Matheson.

An investigation into the bill by the Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body (SPCB) is expected to release its findings in due course, but reports on Thursday morning suggested it was likely to be a tough outcome for Matheson. 

After FMQs, Yousaf did not stop to speak to journalists as he said he had a "reshuffle" to do, but it is not clear how many ministers are set to be moved around.

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Earlier, Yousaf told the Chamber: “I think someone who has served this Parliament, served his country, served the Government, not for years but for decades – he should be afforded that due process.”

The FM said it is “galling” for the Tories to raise integrity in public life, pointing to Ross’s support for former prime minister Boris Johnson, whom he called an "honest man". 

Ross replied that Matheson misled the public, the press, and the Parliament.

“He’s resigned, but Humza Yousaf should have sacked him the minute it became clear that Michael Matheson had not told the truth," the Scottish Tory leader said. 

The National:

Yousaf also defended the Scottish Government’s record on health, saying: “We are focused on the recovery for the NHS, which includes record funding for our NHS.”

In contrast, he said the Tories are “gutting the NHS to the bone” in England.

Ross continued his attack and said Yousaf had staked his own reputation on the “disgraced” Matheson.

He added: “Trust in this Government is gone. The SNP’s credibility is gone, Michael Matheson is gone.

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“But Humza Yousaf the human shield is still here defending him.”

“How dare Douglas Ross stand here and talk about standards in public life,” the FM replied, claiming Prime Minister Rishi Sunak had “punched down” by making comments in the House of Commons about transgender people.

He also criticised the PM for "gambling with the lives of the most vulnerable" with a £1000 bet with Piers Morgan over getting Rwanda flights off the ground, a move that sparked an intense backlash.

“I’ll certainly not be taking any lectures from the Conservatives on standards and integrity in public life,” Yousaf added.

As well as filling the now vacant health secretary role, Yousaf is likely to appoint a minister for drugs and alcohol, after Elena Whitham resigned from the position earlier this week citing post-traumatic stress.