A former SNP MP has been jailed for two years for embezzling almost £25,000 from two pro-independence groups.
Natalie McGarry, 40, who represented Glasgow East between 2015 and 2017, was convicted of two charges following a trial at Glasgow Sherriff Court today (30 June).
In May 2022, a jury found her guilty by majority of a charge of embezzling £19,974 while she was treasurer of Women for Independence (WFI) between 26 April 2013 and 30 November 2015.
The jury also found that she embezzeld a further £4,661 between 9 April 2014 and 10 August 2015 when she was treasurer, secretary and convener of the Glasgow Regional Association of the SNP.
In total, she was found guilty of embezzling £24,635. On both charges, she was found guilty by majority.
What was said?
Sheriff Tom Hughes sentenced McGarry to two years in jail when she retuned to Glasgow Sherriff Court on Thursday.
He said she had betrayed people who put their trust in her and that a custodial sentence was inevitable.
Sheriff Hughes told her: “It’s quite clear that society has a right to expect the highest standards from those who seek and eventually achieve high public office.”
He added: “Through your role in these offences, you have not only betrayed the trust placed in you by others, but your standards have fallen well short of those the public should have a right to expect from MPs.”
The sheriff described the offences as “very serious charges which took place over a long period of time”.
What happened at court?
In the trial, which lasted six-weeks, the court heard from dozens of witnesses, including Scotland’s former health secretary Jeane Freeman, who said she reported McGarry after noticing a significant shortfall in WFI accounts.
Ms Freeman said she had no idea donations made to the group’s independence Crowdfunder were going from the organisation’s PayPal account into McGarry’s personal bank account.
She also voiced her frustrations at McGarry’s delay in handing over receipts and invoices which would show what the funds had been spent on.
The court was shown McGarry’s bank records, which showed Crowdfunder donations from WFI being transferred to her own personal account.
They included transfers £10,472.52 on 29 April 2014 and a further £9,848.70 on 12 November 2014, which she used to pay for rent and shopping.
McGarry had said these were “legitimate” expenses which she had incurred and that she was reimbursing herself.
The court also heard from witnesses that McGarry had personal financial difficulties and regularly received loans from family and friends, including from Humza Yousaf, the current Scottish Health Secretary, who gave McGarry £600 to prevent her from being evicted from her home.
At the sentencing, defence agent Allan Macleod urged the sheriff to deal with his client as leniently as possible.
He said: “It’s difficult to overstate the significant impact that these offences have had on Ms McGarry’s life.
“In 2015 she was an MP, something that was a lifetime achievement. That has been transformed into a life she could barely have imagined seven years ago.
“The last seven years have been almost intolerable for her. As a consequence of these offences she has been ostracised by her former colleagues, people she was friends with, she lost her seat in parliament.”
He said that to a large degree, McGarry has “withdrawn from life itself” and that her main focus is now on caring for her four-year-old child.
Has Natalie McGarry been charged before?
McGarry was elected as an SNP member in 2015 but resigned the party whip after the fraud allegations emerged, which she denied.
She continued in Parliament as an independent MP representing Glasgow East but did not seek re-election in 2017.
The 40-year-old previously appeared in court on embezzlement charges in 2018 and was sentenced to 18 months behind bars in June 2019 at Glasgow Sheriff Court after admitting two charges of embezzling more than £25,000.
Days later she attempted to withdraw her two guilty pleas, but the sheriff ruled that was not possible.
She began a jail sentence of 18 months before being released days afterwards on bail, pending an appeal.
The conviction was quashed in December 2019 and McGarry was later notified of a fresh prosecution, which has now concluded.