Former health secretary 'trusted ex-SNP MP to run financial affairs'

McGarry allegedly embezzled more than £25,000 from two Scottish independence organisations.

Former health secretary Jeane Freeman ‘trusted ex-SNP MP Natalie McGarry to run financial affairs’ Getty Images

Former health secretary Jeane Freeman told a jury that she “trusted” former SNP MP Natalie McGarry to run their organisation’s financial affairs.

Natalie McGarry, 40, who represented Glasgow East, allegedly embezzled more than £25,000 from two Scottish independence organisations between April 2013 and August 2015.

Ms Freeman, 68, stated in evidence at Glasgow Sheriff Court that McGarry was put under control of Women For Independence finances in 2013 on the run up the 2014 referendum.

The charge claims McGarry embezzled £21,000 while Treasurer for Women for Independence (WFI) between April 26, 2013 and November 30, 2015.

It is alleged she transferred cash made from fundraising events into her own personal accounts and failed to send the donations intended for Perth and Kinross food bank and the charity Positive Prisons Positive Futures.

She then allegedly used cheques – held in the name of Women for Independence – to deposit money into her accounts.

The second charge states McGarry embezzled £4661 between April 9, 2014 and August 10, 2015.

It is alleged that while McGarry was treasurer, secretary and convenor of Glasgow Regional Association of the SNP, she used cheques drawn from their bank account to pay expenses not incurred by the group.

McGarry is claimed to have retained reimbursements intended to settle expenses which she was not entitled to.

The charge goes on to say McGarry used cheques and money from donations to the organisation to deposit money to her own accounts.

McGarry, of the city’s Clarkston, has denied the two charges.

Ms Freeman claimed that she founded WFI in 2012 with four others in order to give women a voice in the independence debate.

The ex-SNP MSP for Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley stated that McGarry became involved as the group expanded and that her initial role was to organise dinners for members.

Ms Freeman said McGarry took over financial matters in 2013 as the organisation became “more organised” but there was “no formal structure.”

She added: “Natalie told of financial matters and gave reports as to how much money we had, how much was coming through and how much was raised.”

The witness stated that members agreed that 50% of funds raised by the group would go to local organisations

Ms Freeman admitted to having “limited” knowledge as to how crowdfunding worked.

It was agreed that £20,823 was raised by WFI during a fundraiser between March and April 2014 which left WFI with £10,772 after deductions such as fees and refunds.

Prosecutor Alistair Mitchell asked Ms Freeman where she thought the money would be transferred to.

She replied: “The WFI bank account.

Ms Freeman stated that she did not check the WFI bank account

Mr Mitchell asked why she found it not necessary to do that.

She said: “It’s a good and important question, the point of WFI is we were founded on trust.

“We trusted each other and that goes across the organisation that we would do the job we volunteered to do.

“If someone was struggling, you would say so and someone from the organisation would work hard to be non-judgmental and support each other.”

A juror was struck off after they reported ill before evidence began. 

Sheriff Tom Hughes told members of the press to advise readers: “It’s important for everyone to be aware what’s posted on Twitter or in any electronic form.

“It could have a catastrophic effect on the trial process and could be prejudicial and as a result pf that anyone found to be doing that in the knowledge that it could prejudice could face proceedings.”

The trial continues before sheriff Hughes.

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