Scotland’s health chief Michael Matheson blamed his teenage sons watching football while on holiday in Morocco for an £11,000 bill in data roaming charges on his official iPad.
The SNP MSP U-turned after previously claiming the device had only been used for parliamentary work during a trip abroad with his family shortly after Christmas last year.
Making a statement in Holyrood, Mr Matheson said he had wanted to “protect” his children from the “political and media scrutiny”.
But in an emotional apology he admitted this had been a “mistake” and confessed it was only possible to explain the eye-watering charges by clarifying their role.
The health secretary said he only became aware his sons had used the iPad to watch football last Thursday, after the scandal had erupted.
He said: “I had previously checked this but the truth only emerged after this story was in the news.”
Mr Matheson added that he “should have pressed harder” about family use of the iPad, but took responsibility for the costs incurred.
The health secretary and his wife immediately decided to reimburse the Scottish Parliament “for the full cost” at that point.
He admitted the huge bill had come about as a result of him failing to update the SIM card to Holyrood’s new contract provider before travelling abroad.
And he added that he should have notified parliamentary staff he was taking the iPad with him before making the trip to Morocco.
Mr Matheson insisted he has no plans to quit his ministerial role despite calls from political rivals to stand down.
He also said he had not watched any football matches on the devices on January 2, when the largest sum of the roaming charges were incurred.