Ex-SNP MP told claimed she was 'not skint' at embezzlement trial

Natalie McGarry stated in evidence that she received a regular income through family and latterly her wages as an MP.

Former SNP MP Natalie McGarry claimed she was ‘not skint’ at embezzlement trial STV News
Natalie McGarry appearing at court in Glasgow.

Former MP Natalie McGarry told her embezzlement trial on Monday that she was not skint.

McGarry, 41, stated in evidence that she received a regular income through family and latterly her wages as an MP.

She claimed she helped out struggling former MSP Carolyn Leckie who was “struggling” despite having an outstanding debt of her own to friend Julie Tarbett.

McGarry, who 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.

McGarry is said to have embezzled £21,000 while treasurer for Women for Independence (WFI) between April 26, 2013 and November 30, 2015.

A second charge states McGarry took £4,661 between April 9, 2014 and August 10, 2015 when she was treasurer, secretary and convenor of the GRA.

McGarry – of Clarkston, East Renfrewshire – denies the two charges at Glasgow Sheriff Court.

Prosecutor Alistair Mitchell asked McGarry about her personal finances which included £1,000 owed to Ms Tarbett and £600 to health secretary Humza Yousaf.

Mr Mitchell put it to McGarry that several witnesses have described being told by her that she was “skint.”

She said: “What I would say is it was a difficult period traveling around the country.

“Carolyn said herself it was a huge burden on all of us to do what we were doing.

“We were volunteering doing what we were doing.

“Skint is a relative term, it’s not a crime to be poor.

“It wasn’t fair to say I was poor, I was part of a two-person household.”

Mr Mitchell asked: “Shona McAlpine said that you said you were skint, is she wrong?”

McGarry replied: “It’s relative, would I be able to go out and buy a car or go and purchase luxury things? No, that’s a given, it’s all relative.”

McGarry stated she had a lot of outgoings and footed the bill personally for office expenses.

She was asked about having an MP’s salary in November 2015 despite an email to office manager Rachel Mackie being shown about a payment where she claimed she would be left with £60 at the end of the month.

McGarry said: “I have no recollection of the conversation or the context, we are just looking at a bit of conversation with Rachel…it was seven years ago.”

Mr Mitchell said: “At this point in November 2015, you are earning £80,000 since May 2015, but what you are saying is you would have £60 to live on?

McGarry responded: “I have no idea the context of this conversation or if it’s a fair reflection.”

Mr Mitchell asked: “Is it a fair reflection?”

McGarry said: “No, I was earning an MP’s salary, I wasn’t skint, I’m not entirely sure of the context of this, I was not involved in WFI for this period, I don’t know why this is relevant.”

She later claimed that she was not earning £80,000 at the time but £67,000.

McGarry claimed that she received around £1,500 to £1,600 a month from her parents as well as aunt Tricia Marwick.

She was questioned on where McGarry would spend the money.

McGarry stated that she used some of it to help out Ms Leckie.

She added: “It was morally right for Carolyn, who was struggling, I tried to get her a paid position at WFI was I was knocked back.”

Mr Mitchell asked: “You said it was morally right to assist Ms Leckie, is it not morally right to pay back Julie Tarbett who still had money outstanding?”

McGarry said: “That’s a good question and I didn’t know it was still outstanding…it is unfortunate not to have paid that.

Mr Mitchell responded: “There should be no difficulty, getting £1,500 to £1,600 per month?”

McGarry replied: “I just didn’t realise it had not been paid back.”

She later stated: “I didn’t realise this until last week – it was a shock to me.” 

Mr Mitchell quizzed McGarry on her Electoral Commission return for WFI.

She admitted that she and the organisation were not “scrupulous” for keeping receipts.

McGarry later added that she sent in the Electoral Commission return at the last minute as she was “procrastinating.”

She said she “panicked” when she was later asked by WFI for accounting information as the she did not have some of it and that it was “chaotic” in the early years of the organisation.

An email chain appeared to show McGarry tell Miss Leckie that she did not have the information.

Earlier emails including to Jeane Freeman are noted as McGarry saying that she is “just about finished the accounts.”

She claimed there was a difference because she had a “different relationship” between Ms Freeman and Ms Leckie.

McGarry stated that she had lost some information as she did not have the password to an iCloud account and had wiped a laptop which she gave to an WFI employee.

She further claimed that she had lost the USB which contained the information from the laptop.

McGarry was quizzed about the £6,436 she repaid to WFI.

She said this was for items purchased under £200 Electoral Commission spending limit for which she did not have receipts but would be later vouched for.

Mr Mitchell led McGarry through her bank statements where she appeared to spend money withdrawn from WFI PayPal and cheques on personal expenses.

This included Just Eat, Next, 02, Asda, Tesco, Urban Outfitters and Amigo Loans during the time McGarry was campaigning for her seat.

She said: “I did have a life and spent money on things.”

McGarry said that she was “reimbursing” herself from payments she had made to WFI.

Mr Mitchell: “You would not be able to make [the personal expenses] without a cheque coming to your bank account, you were reimbursing yourself?”

McGarry: “Yes.”

Mr Mitchell put it to McGarry on one occasion she had £161 in her bank account before transferring £2,000 from PayPal.

Payments were then seen to be made to direct debits as well as people including Humza Yousaf.

Mr Mitchell: “It appears these payments were funded by the PayPal transfer?”

McGarry: “My position remains consistent, no matter how many examples you take me to – it’s my position.”

A total of £27,310 appeared to have been transferred to McGarry from the WFI PayPal account from March 2014 to November 2015 according to a police accounts report. 

Mr Mitchell: “It’s your evidence all of that was you reimbursing WFI spending?”

McGarry: “Yes.”

McGarry claimed to keep tabs on her personal spending as well as WFI spending.

Mr Mitchell made reference to witnesses claiming that McGarry was disorganised. 

Mr Mitchell: “You diligently with money coming in and out of your bank account were keeping track – that’s the opposite of disorganised?”

McGarry: “I can’t answer how other people say I was disorganised, that’s the general idea from multiple witnesses, you would have to ask them about their evidence.

“I in general knew what I had been spending and what I needed to be reimbursed.”

The trial continues tomorrow before sheriff Tom Hughes.