A former Scottish National Party MP who embezzled nearly £25,000 from two independence groups has been jailed for two years.
Natalie McGarry, who represented Glasgow East between 2015 and 2017, was found guilty of two embezzlement charges, totaling £24,635, in May after a trial in Glasgow Sheriff’s Court.
A jury found her guilty by a majority of a £19,974 embezzlement charge while she was treasurer of Women for Independence (WFI), a group she helped set up, between April 26, 2013 and on November 30, 2015.
She was also found guilty by a majority of a second charge of taking £4,661 between April 9, 2014 and August 10, 2015 while serving as Treasurer, Secretary and Convenor of the Glasgow Regional Association of the SNP .
In a statement expressing relief that the long-running investigation was finally over, WFI’s national committee said it was disappointed that McGarry had been handed a custodial sentence.
“Women for Independence has long been associated with the campaign for justice for women caught up in the criminal justice system…The general pattern of women’s offending is such that we believe most women serving custodial sentences would be better served by community arrangements that do not disrupt families, children or in the long term cost more.
He added that the guilty verdict was “a final vindication of our actions [reporting McGarry to the police]which were criticized by some at the time”.
Sentencing McGarry, Sheriff Tom Hughes said she betrayed people who trusted her and a custodial sentence was inevitable.
He told her: “It is quite clear that society has the right to expect the highest standards from those who seek and ultimately obtain high public office.
“By your role in these offences, you have not only betrayed the trust placed in you by others, but your standards fall far short of those the public should be entitled to expect of MPs.”
During the six-week trial, the court heard from dozens of witnesses, including former Scottish Health Secretary Jeane Freeman, who was also a founding member of WFI, one of the grassroots groups most important to emerge from the 2014 campaign.
Freeman explained that she reported McGarry after noticing a large deficit in WFI accounts. She described her “growing unease” as McGarry delayed delivering receipts and invoices showing what the funds were spent on.
She said she had no idea that donations made to the group’s independent crowdfunder went from the organization’s PayPal account to McGarry’s personal bank account.
Freeman said she felt “an important responsibility” to trace what happened to the money that was donated by “women and men, many of whom could not afford much at all, and they had given in trust”. The court also heard witnesses say that McGarry struggled financially and regularly received loans from family and friends.
This included Humza Yousaf, the Scottish health secretary, who gave McGarry £600 to save her from being evicted from her home.
The court saw McGarry’s bank statements, which showed WFI’s Crowdfunder donations were transferred to his own personal account.
McGarry was elected to represent the Glasgow East constituency for the SNP in 2015 but resigned as whip after being first linked to allegations of missing donations in November of that year.
She continued in parliament as an independent MP representing Glasgow East but did not seek re-election in 2017.