Natalie McGarry: From high-flying Westminster career to embezzlement conviction

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Natalie McGarry has been on trial for the last six weeks over accusations of embezzling thousands of pounds from two pro-independence groups.

The 40-year-old represented Glasgow East as an SNP MP from 2015 to 2017.

Before that, she had been an SNP activist and convener of the SNP’s Glasgow Regional Association.

She was also a co-founder of the Women for Independence (WFI) group.

In September 2015, WFI alerted police over a “discrepancy” between donation incomes and expenditures.

Natalie McGarry
Former SNP MP Natalie McGarry has been found guilty of embezzlement (Andrew Milligan/PA)

Serving as the group’s treasurer, McGarry was subsequently charged over the missing money – facing allegations of having transferred cash raised during campaign events into her personal account.

She was also accused of having deposited cheques made out to the campaign group into her own account.

McGarry had the SNP whip withdrawn upon reports of the allegations, and was suspended from the party, continuing to sit as an independent MP.

SNP 2015 election campaign
Natalie McGarry, right, was elected as an SNP MP for Glasgow East in 2015 (Danny Lawson/PA)

She did not seek re-election in the snap general election of 2017.

In 2018, McGarry was charged with three counts of embezzlement, two charges under the Scottish Independence Referendum Act 2013 and one charge under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000.

A plea of not guilty was entered in 2019 for the embezzlement charges and the one charge under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000, which was in relation to failing to provide a passcode to a seized mobile phone.

At a trial at Glasgow Sheriff Court in April 2019, she pleaded guilty to two charges of embezzlement, including £21,000 from WFI between April 26 2013 and November 30 2015, and £4,661 from the Glasgow Regional Association between April 9 2014 and August 10 2015. The remaining charges were dropped.

But days later she attempted to withdraw her two guilty pleas, with the sheriff ruling that was not possible.

Jeane Freeman
Former Scottish health secretary Jeane Freeman gave evidence at McGarry’s trial (Andrew Milligan/PA)

She began a jail sentence of 18 months before being released days after on bail, pending an appeal.

The conviction was quashed, and McGarry was notified of a retrial.

The six-week retrial at Glasgow Sheriff Court began on April 6, 2022, with evidence being heard from several witnesses, including Scottish Health Secretary Humza Yousaf and his predecessor Jeane Freeman.

In this trial, McGarry, of Clarkston, East Renfrewshire, denied both charges against her.

McGarry’s aunt, former Scottish Parliament presiding officer Tricia Marwick, appeared as a witness. She told the court her niece would visit her at the Parliament in Edinburgh “once a month to every six weeks”.

There, she said, she would give her niece hundreds of pounds – always in cash.

Mrs Marwick said she could not quantify the total amount gifted between April 2013 and November 2015 “with any great certainty”, but said it was “somewhere between” £3,000 and £5,000.

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.”

She told the court she wanted to give McGarry a “helping hand” as an aspiring politician.

McGarry married David Meikle, then a Scottish Conservative councillor, in 2016.

Mr Meikle had been a member of Glasgow City Council, representing the Pollokshields ward, but lost his seat in the May 5 local elections.

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