Former MSP was 'overwhelmed' running merchandise for pro-indy group

Natalie McGarry said she felt 'vindicated' after various emails were shown to jurors.

Former-MP Natalie McGarry tells embezzlement trial she felt ‘overwhelmed’ running merchandise for pro-indy group STV News

Former MP Natalie McGarry told her embezzlement trial that she was overwhelmed by running the merchandise branch of Women for Independence.

McGarry, 40, asked other members to take on the role as she campaigned for her seat in the 2015 General Election.

An upset McGarry said she felt “vindicated” after various emails shown to jurors at Glasgow Sheriff Court showed there were numerous events hosted by a number of local WFI groups after the referendum.

McGarry, who later represented Glasgow East for the SNP, allegedly stole more than 25,000 from two organisations advocating for Scottish independence between April 2013 and August 2015.

She is said to have embezzled £21,000 while treasurer for Women for Independence (WFI) between April 26, 2013 and November 30, 2015. Jurors were shown numerous emails from numerous local WFI groups requesting materials such as banners and leaflets after the referendum. 

McGarry – who had taken on a merchandise role at WFI – had begun her general election campaign meantime.

She said: “Had I known how busy I was going to be at the general election and how mind blowing the number of local groups, I would have to ask someone else to take on the role.”

An email was shown to the jury from WFI employee Kathleen Caskie to members in February 2015.

It said: “Just a reminder Natalie is asking if anyone could take responsibility for the merchandise right now.

“Kezia and I can’t, it might be possible after the AGM, talk about it to Natalie not me.

“Kathleen Caskie, not grumpy, busy.”

McGarry told her counsel Allan MacLeod: “As you can see, I was overwhelmed as I was out all day campaigning trying to fit WFI around my campaign and still being committed to WFI.

“It is an interesting email as Kathleen was saying she and Kezia are too busy to do merchandise.

“They were paid employees who were too busy to take on this role in WFI and it shows how busy the organisation was.”

McGarry was visibly upset when she said: “I’m finding it quite upsetting seeing how many events were going on at that time and hearing people in evidence saying nothing was going on as I feel a bit vindicated.”

Another email detailing what would appear on a WFI stall at an SNP conference showed that there were 55 local groups at the time.

Jurors earlier heard that McGarry was tasked with giving out travel expenses to WFI members who travelled on official business.

She said: “If it was reasonable, I wouldn’t necessarily have them vouched.

“If someone was going to Aberdeen for WFI and needed to get a train you’re talking £40, I would say that was reasonable as I have taken that train myself and some needed advanced purchases. 

“Some people were not in a position to be reimbursed or in a position to pay money into their bank account as they’re overdrawn and their overdraft would swallow it up.

“I would need to meet to give them the cash. 

“It was a delicate balance to know the financial position some women were in compared to others. 

“Some women were embarrassed by their financial situation and it was not my position to disclose that to anyone.”

A second charge states McGarry took £4661 between April 9, 2014 and August 10, 2015 when she was Treasurer, Secretary and Convenor of Glasgow Regional Association (GRA) of the SNP.

McGarry, of Clarkston, East Renfrewshire, denies the two charges.

The trial continues before sheriff Tom Hughes. 

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