WHEN Natalie McGarry made a bid to be one of the SNP’s candidates in the 2014 European elections she told party members that she had “studied law at university and went on to further study international government diplomacy.”

She claimed to have worked in local government, in policy advisory roles.

Other biographies penned by the prospective politician said she’d worked in human resources and as a community officer for unemployed parents.

There was also a stint as a Holiday Rep in Cyrpus, some work for a charity helping young people, and as a policy adviser in a third sector organisation.

While she may have studied law at Aberdeen University, she never graduated. She dropped out following a family tragedy.

It’s not clear where she studied international government diplomacy. It doesn’t appear to be a course offered by any college or university anywhere in the UK.

There is also no record of which companies or charities employed McGarry.

Earlier this month, Glasgow Sheriff Court heard that she spent much of the first half of the last decade unemployed, being helped out financially by her family.

McGarry's relationship with the truth is complex.

On Thursday, the majority of a jury of her peers decided they didn't believe her.

They found her guilty of embezzling money while she was the treasurer of the Women for Independence, and while she was treasurer, secretary and convener of the Glasgow Regional Association of the SNP.

The verdict is a vindication of the women who trusted McGarry to tell the truth, who went to the police when it became abundantly clear she hadn’t. 

Women for Independence (WFI) was set up in 2012 in a bid to close the gender gap ahead of the referendum, but also as anantidote to the maleness of the official campaign

When the official Yes Scotland campaign launched, they only had the one woman on stage

Poll after poll showed women were overwhelmingly for staying in the union. A Panelbase survey carried out at the time found that 62 per cent of women who had a firm opinion were against independence.

When details of the WFI were first revealed in this paper a decade ago, they had 214 supporters signed up.

By the time of the referendum, the number of women who had offered their support, attended events, organised street stalls was in the thousands.

Founding members included Jeane Freeman, a former special adviser to Jack McConnell who would, of course, ultimately go on to be the health minister in the Scottish Government.

Ex-Scottish Socialist Party MSP Carolyn Leckie, former SNP candidate Isobel Lindsay, and McGarry were all there from the beginning too.

"We came together because a group of us arrived at the conclusion, individually, that women's voices were missing from both sides of the referendum debate,” she told the Sunday Herald.

It was, Ms Freeman told Glasgow Sheriff Court six weeks ago, an organisation “founded on trust.”

McGarry became WFI’s treasurer on April 26, 2013, holding the role until November 30, 2015.

She came from solid SNP stock. Her mum, Alice McGarry, was a councillor in Fife for three decades.  Her aunt is Tricia Marwick, the former Holyrood presiding officer.

When, in January 2014, the party was looking for a candidate to stand in the Cowdenbeath by-election following the death of MSP Helen Eadie, McGarry seemed like the natural choice.  

The election was a disaster for the SNP, with their vote collapsing, falling by 13 per cent.

Still, it put McGarry on the radar and over the course of the next nine months, her profile would continue to grow.

She’d appear regularly at events, and debates, frequently appearing on TV or in print, speaking on behalf of WFI or the campaign for independence.

Even after the vote, McGarry was still a significant presence.

She was the convenor of the SNP’s Glasgow Regional Association, and was a shoo-in for selection at the 2015 general election, taking on, and ultimately beating Labour's Margaret Curran in Glasgow East.

It was an unpleasant campaign, with nationalist activists hounding the veteran incumbent.

McGarry gently rebuked the men, but sparked anger when she said Ms Curran was a “fair target for community justice.”

All the while, her colleagues in WFI were becoming increasingly alarmed at their treasurer’s failure to reply to emails asking for details of exactly how much money they had in their accounts.

In the run-up to the 2014 referendum, WFI had no formal structures, no constitution and no officers.

They had a mailing list of about 2,000 people, and about 15 - 20 active groups.

When the organisation formalised in March 2015, elected a National Council and adopted a constitution, starting life with around 1000 members, and about 40 - 50 groups officially affiliating, those questions to the treasurer only got more urgent.

McGarry was asked repeatedly for details of the group’s income and expenditure over the campaign and beyond.

She was asked to hand over documents to Elizabeth Young, a member of WFI who was an accountant, and who had volunteered to help with the finances.

However, McGarry, over a period of months, failed to provide all the information requested. Instead, it came in dribs and drabs.

In emails in September 2015, Ms Freeman and Ms Leckie demanded McGarry give them full details of the spending, access to the different PayPal accounts and other information.

They warned her that there would be consequences if she failed to meet the deadlines.

It would later turn out that Ms Young's initial audit for WFI came to a similar conclusion as the forensic accountant recruited for the trial. There was around £20,000 unaccounted for. 

It transpired that the money raised through crowdfunders had gone directly into McGarry’s personal bank account.

It was used to pay rent, for shopping and even for holidays. 

Between October 10 and 19, 2014 McGarry and husband David Meikle holidayed in Spain.

Just over a month earlier £1700 had been transferred from WFI’s Paypal account into McGarry’s account. She then sent Mr Meikle £1140. He then spent £1035 on flights and car hire.

Mr Meikle was, until last week, a Conservative councillor in Glasgow. He only narrowly missed out on re-election.

In November 2015, WFI went to the police. McGarry withdrew from the SNP, saying it was "in the best interests of the party", but that she had done "nothing wrong".

Four months later, The National would report that questions were also being asked over money that had gone missing from the accounts of the Glasgow regional association of the SNP.

McGarry had been its convener from 2011 until 2015 and the main signatory of the GRA's bank account. They had £4,661 unaccounted for. 

When she had won her election in 2015, she took to the stage in Glasgow’s Emirates, and told supporters “This victory is not for me alone - it is for every mother who has queued for a food bank, every member of the disabled community who has had benefits slashed, and every lone parent who has suffered at the hands of austerity.”

On Thursday, the jury agreed with the Procurator Fiscal, that McGarry had effectively stolen money, including £750 that was supposed to have been donated to a food bank.

McGarry’s brief time as an MP was often mired in controversy. She was forced to pay £10,000 to  Alastair Cameron, the director of Scotland in Union after she described him as a “holocaust denier.”

She was then taken to court again for failing to “adequately” apologise to Mr Cameron, after tweeting “I’d add however, that you should be careful who is distributing your materials, but apologies etc.”

McGarry was also briefly detained by Turkish security forces less than 80 miles from the Syrian border after she took out her phone at a security check point.

Then there was the run in with JK Rowling. McGarry had to apologise for "any misguided inference" that the Harry Potter author supported misogyny or abuse.

This was her second time in court on these charges. The ex-MP initially pleaded guilty early on in her initial trial in late 2019, though she later, unsuccessfully, tried to change her plea. 

She was sentenced to 18 months but had the verdict overturned after a few days after appeal judges ruled that she had been the victim of a miscarriage of justice.

Over the last six weeks, McGarry’s defence was that her finances were "disorganised" and "chaotic" but that everything was above board. 

A majority of the jury, watching the trial remotely, disagreed.

McGarry could very well be heading back to prison.