WOMEN for Independence founder Jeane Freeman has called for an apology from the people in the wider Yes movement who criticised her and colleagues for reporting Natalie McGarry to the police. 

The former health secretary declined to name names, just saying that there was “unacknowledged misogyny” directed towards the group.

After details of the police probe emerged in the press some of McGarry’s colleagues in Westminster briefed journalists that it was “all a misunderstanding.”

It's also understood one Scottish Government minister made clear they were unhappy with the decision to go to the authorities.

Even as McGarry’s first trial date appeared in 2019, one SNP MP is understood to have kept in touch with her suspended colleague, advising her over Whatsapp on what dress would be most suitable for court

Just a fortnight ago, this MP was still insisting that McGarry was innocent. 

Speaking to the Herald shortly after the verdict, Ms Freeman said she felt vindicated and relieved by the jury’s verdict. 

She said: “It's been around seven years or so hanging over a number of people. And that's hard and it's been upsetting and distressing for folk throughout that time. 

“I don't think at any point during that period, any one of us who were part of the decision to hand the matter over to the police regretted at any point that we had done so or believed that we were wrong to have done so. 

“And I think the conduct of the trial and the verdict of the jury vindicates that we were right to say that the trust that people across Scotland had put in Women for Independence, needed to be honoured by answers being sought as to what had happened to the money they've given us.”

Ms Freeman said the long wait for a trial had taken its toll on some of the women involved. 

“It has been very difficult. You've got to remember that many of the people we're talking about are not in political parties, they're not politicians or ex-politicians. 

“They are straightforwardly ordinary decent women who got involved in Women for Independence because they believed in the organisation and the approach and the desire to have women's voices heard through the independence referendum and since. 

“And so the prospect of a court case and giving evidence is not something that they're going to take too easily or lightly, but every credit to every single one of them they never demurred at any point because they believed they were doing the right thing.”

Ms Freeman, who first met McGarry in 2012, says she genuinely does not understand why the ex-MP pleaded innocent and that she was “bemused and perplexed” by her defence. 

There were “many opportunities over many months” for McGarry to explain what had happened to the money, and then, once police were involved, “many opportunities for her to acknowledge what she had done.“

“A lot of people, possibly including herself and her family, could have been saved a lot of anguish if she'd acknowledged from the outset, what had happened and what her actions have resulted in.”

Ms Freeman says they had no choice but to go to police when they discovered the “pattern” in their accounts. 

Money would repeatedly move from crowdfunders to McGarry’s account, but then never show up in WFI’s account. 

“We had no explanation for any of that and we're talking substantial sums of money. And at that point, there was in my mind, no choice, no choice at all,“ Ms Freeman said.

“You can't unknow what you know, and you can't walk away from a situation like that. And hope that it just disappears. The reality is people trusted us and we had to honour that trust.”

Ms Freeman says there was never any pressure from others before they went to police.

“It was very much a Women for Independence matter, and it was for the Women For Independence organisation to decide what to do.

"But once we had done it it's certainly true that there were people in the wider independence movement who were critical of what we had done and not supportive. 

“And, you know, I hope for Women For Independence itself, I hope those individuals now feel obliged to apologise to the organisation.”

“I have to say, frankly, from my point of view, I think there was a little bit of unacknowledged misogyny in that,” Ms Freeman added. “And that made me cross. But it never at any point made any of us waver and it's also the case that it didn't come as a surprise. 

“We weren't a bunch of naive women playing politics here, we knew exactly what we might get and what to expect. And it wasn't a surprise, but it was deeply disappointing.”