Scotland politics

Former SNP MP Natalie McGarry 'owed thousands in rent'

Natalie McGarry Image copyright PA
Image caption McGarry last month admitted two charges of embezzlement

A former SNP MP owed thousands of pounds in rent when she embezzled money from pro-independence groups.

A court heard Natalie McGarry spent more than £25,600 on rent, a holiday to Spain, transfers of money to her husband and other lifestyle spending.

At Glasgow Sheriff Court last month McGarry, 37, admitted two charges of embezzlement.

But her attempt to withdraw the guilty pleas at a later hearing was refused by Sheriff Paul Crozier.

McGarry's lawyer, Allan Macleod, had argued there were several "factual inaccuracies" in the narrative read to the court last week.

The former MP embezzled £21,000 from Women for Independence (WFI) in her role as treasurer of the organisation.

Food bank

She transferred money raised through fundraising events into her personal bank accounts and failed to transfer charitable donations to Perth and Kinross food bank and to Positive Prison, Positive Future between 26 April, 2013 and 30 November, 2015.

Fiscal depute Gerard Drugan told the court that between 2012 and August 2013, McGarry was £3,750 behind in rent arrears and in September 2013 she was asked to pay £1,000 a month until the rent was repaid in full.

Mr Drugan said: "Ms McGarry continued to have money problems and in February 2014 she met Humza Yousaf (now justice secretary) and told him she had been unable to pay her rent.

"He transferred £600 from his bank account to hers, which she later repaid."

Image caption McGarry was elected as an SNP member in 2015

The court heard McGarry gave her bank details for the Our Voice crowdfunding initiative which raised £10,472.

That money was deposited into her bank account in April 2014 and was spent by early June, some of it legitimately and some of it for rent and other lifestyle spending.

The court also heard £750 raised for Perth and Kinross food bank, which would have provided food for 30 families, never reached the organisation.

McGarry used some of the money she had embezzled to go on a week-long holiday to Spain with her husband which was paid for with his Barclaycard, on to which she had transferred some WFI money.

The former MP, who represented Glasgow East and did not seek re-election in 2017, also used cheques drawn on the Women for Independence bank account to deposit money into her own account.

McGarry also admitted embezzling £4,661.02 in the course of her role as treasurer, secretary and convener of the Glasgow Regional Association of the SNP between 9 April, 2014 and 10 August, 2015.

'Factually inaccurate'

Her WFI colleagues eventually became suspicious and had an emergency meeting about accounts in November 2015.

Mr Drugan said: "They identified a possible shortfall of funds for which there was no explanation and they decided she should be reported to police."

Mr Macleod, representing McGarry, said: "The accused's position is still, and remains, that she did not commit these crimes.

"There are substantial parts of the narrative that has been heard by your Lordship that the accused's position is that they are factually inaccurate."

He said he would address the issues at the next hearing, and Sheriff Crozier adjourned the hearing until next month pending reports.

McGarry was elected as an SNP member in 2015 but resigned the party whip following the emergence of fraud allegations , which she denied at the time. She continued in parliament as an independent.

She was charged by police in 2017 over alleged fraud relating to potential missing funds from Women for Independence, which was set up in the run-up to the 2014 Scottish referendum, and the SNP's Glasgow Regional Association.

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