Ex-MP accused of embezzling thousands ‘appeared disorganised’, court told
Natalie McGarry, 40, who represented the Glasgow East constituency at Westminster between 2015 and 2017, is accused of embezzling more than £25,000 from two Scottish independence campaign groups, including Women For Independence (WFI).
Jeanne Freeman, who helped set up WFI, told Glasgow Sheriff Court on Thursday that McGarry “from time to time appeared to be quite disorganised”.
McGarry is on trial accused of misappropriating £21,000 from the campaign group between April 26, 2013 and November 30, 2015 while she was its treasurer.
It is alleged she transferred cash made from fundraising events into her own personal accounts, and failed to send on donations intended for Perth and Kinross food bank and the charity Positive Prisons Positive Futures.
A second charge she faces is that she allegedly embezzled £4,661 from the Glasgow Regional Association of the SNP between April 9, 2014 and August 10, 2015.
McGarry, of upmarket Clarkston on the south side of Glasgow, denies both charges.
Ms Freeman, a former SNP MSP for Cumnock, Carrick and Doon Valley, told the court McGarry was “unwilling” to accept offers of help as the independence group grew in popularity and the responsibilities increased exponentially.
She said: “Natalie McGarry and I lived not too far apart and I travelled a great deal for campaigns and business opportunities and I could have assisted.”
She also said McGarry should only have used her personal bank account as a temporary hold before transferring the funds directly to the WFI account.
A WFI bank account was set up which required the signatures of two separate campaign members before she could deposit cheques.
In the meantime, “dozens” of expenses were coming in each day, according to McGarry’s lawyer Allan Mcleod.
Due to the fast nature of the campaign, if WFI members such as McGarry paid for materials out of their own pocket, she should have claimed it back on expenses, the court heard.
The trial, before Sheriff Tom Hughes, continues.