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Natalie McGarry trial: Former health secretary Jeane Freeman gives evidence

Former MP McGarry is accused of embezzling more than £25,000 from two Scottish independence campaign groups.

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Former Scottish health secretary Jeane Freeman has been giving evidence at Glasgow Sheriff Court in the trial of former MP Natalie McGarry (Andrew Milligan/PA)

Former Scottish health secretary Jeane Freeman has been giving evidence at Glasgow Sheriff Court in the trial of former MP Natalie McGarry (Andrew Milligan/PA)

Former Scottish health secretary Jeane Freeman has been giving evidence at Glasgow Sheriff Court in the trial of former MP Natalie McGarry (Andrew Milligan/PA)

A campaign group at the centre of an embezzlement trial linked to a former SNP MP was based on trust between members, Scotland’s former health secretary has said.

Ex-member of the group, Natalie McGarry, is accused of embezzling more than £25,000 from two Scottish independence campaign groups, including Women For Independence (WFI).

The 40-year-old appeared in the dock at Glasgow Sheriff Court on Wednesday before a jury.

Her lawyer, Allan Macleod, said she denied the two embezzlement charges against her.

The point of Women For Independence was that we were founded on trust. We trusted each otherJeane Freeman, witness

Jeane Freeman, who was one of the founding members of WFI in 2012 and one of the main organisers of the group, was called to give evidence.

The court heard two crowd-funders were set up by WFI to support the campaign group to fund merchandise and leaflets, including one in 2014 called Our Voices.

The prosecution, lead by procurator fiscal Alastair Mitchell, asked Ms Freeman who was in charge of the group’s finances, to which she replied: “Natalie McGarry”.

She said: “Natalie understood how crowdfunding worked, so she was part of all that.

“Natalie McGarry dealt with financial matters and any reports on how much money we had and how much money was raised.”

Ms Freeman told the court she did not check where the money raised in the crowd-funder was transferred to, adding she relied on “verbal reports” from Ms McGarry, the treasurer of the group.

When Mr Mitchell questioned her on not overseeing the accounts, Ms Freeman replied: “The point of WFI was that we were founded on trust. We trusted each other.

“That we would do the job that we had volunteered to do, so that if we turned up at a meeting, you would do it to the best of your ability, if you were running finances, you would do it to the best of your ability.”

Ms Freeman said if anyone was struggling in their role, they were encouraged to speak about it and get support from others.

“We wanted to demonstrate how we ran ourselves, how we thought society could be improved,” she added.

Ms McGarry, of Clarkston, near Glasgow, is accused of misappropriating £21,000 from WIF between April 26 2013 and November 30 2015.

She is accused of using the organisation’s account to transfer money intended for the Perth and Kinross Foodbank, and Glasgow-based Positive Prisons, Positive Futures, into her own bank.

The former politician also faces a second charge of embezzling £4,661.02 from the Glasgow Regional Association of the SNP between April 9 2014 and August 10 2015.

It is alleged that in the course of her roles as treasurer, secretary and convener of the association, Ms McGarry used cheques drawn on bank accounts held in its name to pay expenses it had not incurred and retained reimbursements to which she was not entitled.

The indictment also alleges McGarry used cheques drawn on bank accounts held in the association’s name to deposit money in her own personal bank accounts, and transferred funds donated to the association through its website into her own accounts.

The trial, overseen by Sheriff Tom Hughes, continues.

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