Ex-presiding officer gifted cash to Natalie McGarry every month, court hears

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A former Scottish Parliament presiding officer gifted her niece, who is accused of embezzling more than £25,000 from pro-independence groups, about £300 to £500 per month, a court has heard.

Tricia Marwick, 68, who served as presiding officer from 2011 to 2016, appeared as a witness at Glasgow Sheriff Court on Tuesday.

Her niece, Natalie McGarry, 40, is accused of embezzling £21,000 while treasurer for Women for Independence (WFI) between April 26 2013 and November 30 2015.

The ex-Glasgow East MP is also accused of taking £4,661 between April 9 2014 and August 10 2015 when she was treasurer, secretary and convener of the Glasgow Regional Association (GRA) of the SNP.

McGarry, of Clarkston, denies both charges.

Mrs Marwick, who now serves as chair of NHS Fife, said McGarry would visit her at the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh “once a month to every six weeks”.

There, Mrs Marwick would give her niece hundreds of pounds – always in cash, she told the court.

Defence agent, Allan Macleod, asked the former MSP to quantify how much she gifted McGarry between April 2013 and November 2015.

Mrs Marwick said she could not quantify the exact number “with any great certainty”, however, she said it was “somewhere between three and five thousand.”

She then clarified to prosecutor Alastair Mitchell that the sum could vary on occasion, but never ran into thousands on a single visit.

Mrs Marwick told the court she wanted to make it easier for her niece to get into politics after experiencing how hard it can be herself.

She said: “I regularly gave Natalie between £300 and £500 when she came to see me.

“I wanted (the money) to be spent on herself and her household bills. When I was a young woman I was just starting out and had no income.

“I knew how difficult it was to take money out of the household income for political work. I wanted to give her a helping hand.”

Mrs Marwick was first elected as an SNP MSP in 1999 before retiring in 2016.

She also told Mr Mitchell the money was “always” given to McGarry in cash, after the court heard the former MP received thousands each month from family to help with household bills.

Mrs Marwick was asked to describe her relationship with McGarry by Mr Macleod.

She said: “I’ve known Natalie since she was a very young child. Her family had a trauma when she was around 18 when her brother was killed in a house fire.

“After Natalie left Inverkeithing (in Fife) I didn’t see much of her. I’ve always found her committed, energetic and bubbly.”

Earlier, McGarry wept in court as she said her life had been “ripped apart” by the accusations.

She said: “I wouldn’t have come here with all of the trauma it has caused if I didn’t believe I had done nothing wrong.

“My life has been ripped apart. I haven’t done anything wrong. This has been hellish.”

McGarry told the court the only “mistake” she made was forgetting to pay a media training bill.

Mr Mitchell showed the court evidence of a £2000 cheque from the GRA addressed to McGarry on April 28 2015.

It was intended that McGarry would use this cash to pay back Enterprise Screen who gave SNP candidates media training prior to the 2015 General Election.

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