Disgraced: Ex-SNP MP Natalie McGarry facing prison stretch for the second time after embezzlement conviction

Disgraced former politician Natalie McGarry is facing a second period behind bars after she was convicted of embezzling nearly £25,000.

By Stephen Wilkie and Connor Gordon
Thursday, 12th May 2022, 7:02 pm
Updated Thursday, 12th May 2022, 7:04 pm

The ex-SNP MP, who represented the Glasgow East constituency, was previously jailed for 18 months after admitting similar charges.

However she appealed the conviction and had been on trial again for the last six weeks at Glasgow Sheriff Court.

Despite her denials and claims from defence witnesses that she was merely ‘disorganised’ and not a thief, a jury found her guilty by majority verdicts on two charges of embezzlement.

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Natalie McGarry refused to speak to the media after she was convicted of embezzling nearly £25,000

McGarry, who spent the day before her 41st birthday in the witness box, pocketed the money despite receiving thousands in sums from family, friends and colleagues. During the trial her husband, Conservative David Meikle, lost the Pollokshields ward after 15 years on Glasgow City Council.

The court heard she repeatedly had money problems and obtained loans from relatives and even fellow MSP Humza Yousaf, who gave her cash to pay a rent bill.

The jury was told McGarry took £19,974 while treasurer for Women for Independence (WFI) between April 26, 2013 and November 30, 2015.

She also took £4,661 between April 9, 2014 and August 10, 2015 when she was treasurer, secretary and convener of Glasgow Regional Association (GRA) of the SNP.

Her bank account showed WFI money coming in and almost immediately going out - spent on rent, takeaways, grocery shopping and a holiday to Spain.

Prosecutor Alistair Mitchell said in his closing speech: "The extravagance doesn't matter, she took it dishonestly, it doesn't matter if it was £20 or £20,000.

"Evidence was showing money was being used from WFI for purchases of that sort."

McGarry often complained about being "skint" and despite her then £67,000-a-year Westminster salary in 2015.

She also received £15-20,000 over three years from her father Brian as well as thousands from her aunt, former Holyrood presiding officer Tricia Marwick.

McGarry, who lives in upmarket Clarkston, East Renfrewshire, was caught in 2015 after an audit of WFI’s accounts.

She had "categorically" denied the two charges despite admitting similar allegations in 2019 when she received an 18 month prison sentence.

McGarry served only a few days before she was released pending an appeal. An initial attempt to withdraw her guilty plea failed but a later appeal was upheld by judges.

The jury heard she also failed to pay charity Positive Prisons Positive Futures £360 from a WFI bucket collection.

A similar collection for a Perth foodbank was also not handed over.

McGarry continued her WFI treasurer role even when she became an MP in spring 2015.

Her constituency office manager Rachel Mackie recalled: “She made a fortune, she was on a good salary and her partner was a councillor, she would be in the office complaining about being skint all the time.”

A WFI colleague stated to the jury that McGarry's financial report at a 2015 AGM was "gobbledygook" and "not up to scratch."

The 2015 audit discovered an income and expenditure gap of £31,824 and police were informed. During a May 2016 raid on her home McGarry “took refuge” in her bathroom.

Despite a large amount of evidence, she "categorically" denied wrongdoing during her six-days of evidence.

McGarry sobbed in the witness box when she said: "It’s been the most hellish experience I can possibly imagine.

“Having my whole life ripped apart when I hadn’t done anything wrong.”

Deferring sentence, Sheriff Tom Hughes told McGarry: “You were successfully a member of parliament and as all this was going on the jury established you were involved in embezzling funds from these organisations - this was a very serious breach of trust which the organisations placed on you."