A FORMER MP from East Renfrewshire pocketed more than £25,000 from pro-Independence groups to go on holiday abroad and pay her rent, a court has heard.

Natalie McGarry made her latest appearance at Glasgow Sheriff Court on Friday, having admitted two charges of embezzlement last month.

It was stated that the 37-year-old Clarkston woman owed thousands of pounds in rent when she illegally pocketed funds.

McGarry, who represented the SNP during her time at Westminster, embezzled £21,000 from Women for Independence (WFI) in her role as treasurer.

She transferred cash raised through fundraising events into her personal bank accounts and failed to transfer donations to Perth and Kinross Foodbank and the Positive Prison, Positive Futures charity between April 2013 and November 2015.

Read More: Ex MP attempted to withdraw guilty plea.

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, was asked to pay £1,000 a month until the rent was repaid in full.

He 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.”
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 that £750 raised for Perth and Kinross Foodbank, which would have provided meals 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 David Meikle – a former Conservative councillor.

That holiday was paid for with his Barclaycard, onto which she had transferred some WFI money.

McGarry, who served as MP for Glasgow East but did not seek re-election in 2017, also used cheques drawn on the WFI bank account to deposit money into her own account.

She further admitted embezzling £4,661 in the course of her role as treasurer, secretary and convener of the Glasgow Regional Association of the SNP between April 9, 2014, and August 10, 2015.

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.”

McGarry tried to withdraw her guilty pleas at a hearing earlier this month but that bid was refused by Sheriff Paul Crozier.

On Friday, 10 May, her lawyer Allan Macleod told the court her position remained that she did not commit the crimes.

He said: “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.”

Mr Macleod said he would address the issues at the next hearing, with Sheriff Crozier adjourning matters until June 6, 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, continuing in Parliament as an Independent until May 2017.