A former SNP MP who embezzled nearly £25,000 from two pro-independence groups has been jailed for two years
Natalie McGarry, 40, who represented Glasgow East between 2015 and 2017, was found guilty of two embezzlement charges – totaling £24,635 – in May following a trial at Glasgow Sheriff Court.
A majority jury found her guilty of a £19,974 embezzlement charge while she was Treasurer of Women for Independence (WFI) between April 26, 2013 and 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 .
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 Members of Parliament.
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.
He added: ‘By your role in these offences, you have not only betrayed the trust placed in you by others, but your standards fall well below those which the public should be entitled to expect of MPs.’
The sheriff described the offenses as “very serious charges that took place over a long period of time.”
During the six-week trial, the court heard from dozens of witnesses, including former Scottish Health Secretary Jeane Freeman, who said she slammed McGarry after noticing a large deficit in WFI accounts.
Ms Freeman 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.
She also expressed frustration at McGarry’s delay in delivering receipts and invoices that would show what the funds were spent on.
The court also heard witnesses say that McGarry had personal financial difficulties and regularly received loans from family and friends.
This included Humza Yousaf, the current Scottish Health Secretary, who gave McGarry £600 to save her from being evicted from her home.
The court also saw McGarry’s bank statements, which showed WFI’s Crowdfunder donations were transferred to his own personal account.
It included £10,472.52 on April 29, 2014 and a further £9,848.70 on November 12, 2014 – which she used to pay rent and purchases.
McGarry had said these were “legitimate” expenses she had incurred and were reimbursing herself.
At sentencing on Thursday, defense officer Allan Macleod urged the sheriff to treat his client with as much leniency as possible.
He said: ‘It is difficult to overstate the significant impact these offenses have had on Ms McGarry’s life.
“In 2015 she was an MP, which was a lifetime achievement. It turned into a life she could hardly have imagined seven years ago.
“The last seven years have been almost intolerable for her. As a result of these crimes, she was ostracized by her former colleagues, friends with whom she was friends, she lost her seat in parliament.
He said that to a large extent McGarry had “retired from life itself” and her main focus now was on caring for her four-year-old.
McGarry was elected as an SNP member in 2015 but resigned as party whip after allegations of fraud emerged – which she denied.
She continued in Parliament as an Independent MP representing Glasgow East but did not seek re-election in 2017.
McGarry previously appeared in court for embezzlement in 2018.
She was sentenced to 18 months behind bars in June 2019 at Glasgow Sheriff Court after admitting two charges of misappropriation of over £25,000.
A few days later, she attempted to withdraw both of her guilty pleas, but the sheriff ruled that was not possible.
She began an 18-month prison sentence before being released on bail a few days later, pending an appeal.
The conviction was overturned in December 2019 and McGarry was later told of a new prosecution, which has now ended.