Former SNP MP Natalie McGarry jailed for two years for embezzlement

·4 min read
Former SNP MP Natalie McGarry jailed for two years for embezzlement - Andrew Milligan/PA Wire
Former SNP MP Natalie McGarry jailed for two years for embezzlement - Andrew Milligan/PA Wire

A former SNP MP has been jailed for two years after embezzling £24,600 from two pro-independence groups to finance holidays, takeaways and groceries.

Natalie McGarry, who represented Glasgow East between 2015 and 2017, often complained about being “skint” despite her £74,000-a-year salary.

The mother of one received regular financial donations from friends, family and colleagues, including a £600 loan for rent from Humza Yousaf, the Scottish Health Secretary, in 2014.

She was caught following a financial investigation into her role as treasurer at the grassroots nationalist group Women for Independence (WFI).

In May, the 40-year-old was convicted of embezzling £19,974 while treasurer between April 26 2013 and Nov 30 2015.

McGarry also took £4,661 between April 9 2014 and Aug 10 2015 when she was treasurer, secretary and convenor of the Glasgow Regional Association (GRA) of the SNP.

Jailing her for two years, Sheriff Tom Hughes said that she had “betrayed the trust placed in you by others” and her “standards have fallen well short of what the public have the right to expect from politicians and MPs”.

He added: “You were a role model for aspiring politicians and you became an MP. Because of the serious nature of the offences, a prison sentence is, unfortunately, necessary as no other sentence is appropriate.”

Natalie McGarry - Lesley Martin/PA Wire
Natalie McGarry - Lesley Martin/PA Wire

McGarry showed no emotion after she was led to the cells.

She had “categorically” denied the two charges at Glasgow Sheriff Court after previously appealing an earlier sentencing of 18 months for similar charges in 2019.

She was then reindicted by the Crown and has stood trial for the past six weeks.

The court heard how McGarry helped set up WFI in 2012 and later transferred money raised via online fundraisers into her personal bank account through PayPal.

WFI had raised more than £27,700 between April and Nov 2014.

The group also footed the bill for part of McGarry’s £5,000 loan from the lender Amigo, her trips to Tesco and Asda, and takeaways from Just Eat.

McGarry, who claimed to have “no regular income” during this period, also went to Spain on holiday with her husband David Meikle, a former Tory councillor, and another couple.

Bank statements presented to jurors showed transfers of £1,140 from her account on Sep 1 2014 to Mr Meikle, who had bought flights and car hire two days earlier for £1,035.92.

Nicola Sturgeon and Natalie McGarry - Wullie Marr/Deadline News
Nicola Sturgeon and Natalie McGarry - Wullie Marr/Deadline News

Alistair Mitchell, prosecuting, said to the jury in his closing speech: “The extravagance doesn’t matter. She took it dishonestly, it doesn’t matter if it was £20 or £20,000.

“Evidence was showing money was being used from WFI for purchases of that sort.”

McGarry continued her WFI treasurer role even when she became an MP in spring 2015.

McGarry in her role at the GRA made a cheque out to herself for £2,000 to pay for media training for election candidates. The company did not receive this money.

She also kept refunds from the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, the parliamentary expenses body, including £600 for a constituency office survey and a £500 election deposit.

Police raided McGarry’s house in May 2016, while she “took refuge” in her bathroom.

‘Overwhelmed with donkey work for WFI’

During her six days of evidence, she “categorically” denied wrongdoing and said she was “overwhelmed” with doing the “donkey work” for WFI.

She added that the money she had spent was for reimbursements for earlier payments she had personally made for WFI and the GRA.

McGarry, sobbing in the witness box, said: “It’s been the most hellish experience I can possibly imagine. Having my whole life ripped apart when I hadn’t done anything wrong.”

Allan MacLeod, her defence counsel, said: “It is difficult to overstate the impact these offences had on her life. In 2015, she was an MP, something of a lifetime ambition which has turned to a life she could barely have imagined in 2015.

“She said the last seven years have been almost intolerable for her and the consequence is that she has been ostracised by former colleagues and people she was friends with and lost her job at parliament.”

A Proceeds of Crime hearing to recoup the cash will take place in August.

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