McGarry trial hears employee of pro-independence group ‘was lied to about finances’

A woman said former MP Natalie McGarry repeatedly lied to her about the financial handling of a pro-Scottish independence group they were both part of.

Kathleen Caskie was employed by Women For Independence (WFI) in the run up to the Scottish independence referendum in 2014 and continued to work managing the organization on a voluntary basis thereafter.

The 56-year-old told a jury that she “got tricked” by the former MP, who was the group’s treasurer at the time, over some of WFI’s financial matters.

Natalie McGarry, former SNP MP (Andrew Milligan/PA)

Ms Caskie was called to give evidence at the trial of McGarry, 40, accused of embezzling more than £25,000 from two campaign groups including WFI.

McGarry, who represented Glasgow East for the SNP, allegedly embezzled £21,000 while he was treasurer of WFI between April 26, 2013 and November 30, 2015.

It is also alleged that she transferred money from fundraising events to her own personal accounts and failed to send donations intended for the Perth and Kinross Food Bank and the charity Positive Prisons.

A second charge says McGarry took £4,661 between April 9, 2014 and August 10, 2015 when she was Treasurer, Secretary and Convener of the Glasgow Regional Association (GRA) of the SNP.

McGarry denies the charges.

During a hearing at Glasgow Sheriff Court on Tuesday, Ms Caskie, who said she had known McGarry since childhood, was asked about several WFI debts.

The court saw an email from Stirling Council seeking payment for venue hire for an event hosted by WFI in 2015.

The email, from a council representative to Ms Caskie, said: ‘I need to speak to you about an invoice which remains unpaid for £326.40.’

Looking at the email, the witness said, “That was really embarrassing.”

She told the court: ‘I was lied to.

“I was told that checks had been sent, checks had been sent, checks had been sent.

“I was panicked.

“I got really upset.

“Natalie was bullshitting me that she sent checks and none of it was true.”

Prosecutor Alastair Mitchell said: “Did Natalie tell you this event was paid for?”

Ms Caskie replied: ‘Yes. Several times. I was turned around and I was really angry.

The court saw a financial report prepared by McGarry before the WFI AGM in 2015, which Ms Caskie called “embarrassing”.

Mr Mitchell asked her to explain why it was embarrassing, to which she replied: ‘It just wasn’t up to par.

“It was not what you would expect an intelligent person to write.

“It was just weird.”

She added: “It was definitely not the format I expected, it was just numbers and sentences.”

Ms Caskie told the court the report was ‘gibberish’.

The jury then received an email between McGarry and Ms Caskie on March 14, 2015 agreeing to pay a total sum of £326 to the Positive Prisons (PP) charity, around half of a sum of money that they had collected through a bucket donation. .

Several subsequent email exchanges were shown where PP’s Pete White thanked WFI for his donation and provided the charity’s bank details, which were then passed on by Ms Caskie to McGarry with a request that she do so. the gift.

The jury then received an email dated April 13, 2015 from Mr White saying he was ‘concerned about some sort of breakdown in communication following your kind donation’ and went on to explain that the charity n had not received payment.

Looking at the document on display in court, Ms Caskie said: “Natalie was responsible.

“I was angry.

“It was embarrassing for me.

“Natalie was responsible for paying the donation to this charity.”

Mr Mitchell said: ‘Is it agreed that this charity never received this payment? Were you aware of this?

Ms Caskie said: ‘Well, I know now, and that’s a shame.

“I was told that the postal checks were paid.”

She told the court she was “played for an absolute jerk”.

Allan Macleod, defending, read a written statement from Ms Caskie to Police Scotland in which she described WFI as being run “chaotically” by McGarry and former WFI member Shona McAlpine.

The witness agreed, telling the court that “it was chaotic because decisions were not made properly by the committee”, adding that there was “a great need for more order”.

The jury then received an email from former WFI member and co-founder Carolyn Leckie in which she said there was “too much pressure on Shona and especially Natalie.”

Macleod, referring to the email, asked the witness if that was the case, to which Ms Caskie replied: “Overall, yes.”

She told the court: ‘It became clear that Natalie was not capable of handling the financial affairs.

Macleod asked the witness why McGarry remained in charge of WFI’s finances until 2015, to which Ms Caskie replied: ‘No one could get anything out of her.

“No one could get passwords, receipts.

“It felt like we were being held for ransom.”

Macleod then showed an email from Ms Caskie addressed to former WFI member Margaret Young that she sent before the group’s finances were given to her daughter, Elizabeth, for review.

It read: “WFI finances are in shambles and Natalie has completely lost control, she hasn’t paid bills, has no idea what’s going on and what’s coming out etc.

“Elizabeth could be getting an absolute dog’s breakfast and won’t know where to start.”

He explained to the witness that this showed McGarry was struggling with the band’s finances, to which Ms Caskie replied ‘Yes’.

The court heard that Ms Caskie’s salary was paid directly from McGarry’s account.

Witness said she ‘didn’t know at the time’, and if she was, she ‘didn’t think anything of it’ and it was due to ‘some sort of arrangement’ among those who looked after the finances of the group.

The trial, before Sheriff Tom Hughes, continues.

About Jessica J. Bass

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