FORMER SNP MP Natalie McGarry has been accused in court of using a pro-independence group’s funds to “cover her own expenses”.

Accountant Elizabeth Young, who helped Women for Independence, told Glasgow Sheriff Court on Thursday that there were concerns around the finances when she started at the campaign group, which grew when she tried to get information from McGarry.

The former MP is also alleged to have, on one occasion, asked dinner guests to pay for the shopping used to prepare the meal. 

Young, 37, said: “I saw the pattern. As funds ran low there would be a lodgement of funds from Women for Indy, by PayPal or cheque, sent. It was being deposited to cover her own personal expenses.

“Funds ran low, some more money would come in. Obviously that was a warning.”

McGarry faces two counts of embezzlement, which she denies.

The 40-year-old is accused of embezzling £4,661.02 from the Glasgow Regional Association of the SNP between April 9, 2014 and August 10, 2015, and also of embezzling £21,000 between April 26, 2013 and November 30, 2015 while she was treasurer of Women for Independence.

Young told the court she had asked for information about where money had been spent for months, with the 14-strong jury being shown copies of emails between her, McGarry, and other members of the campaign organisation.

After McGarry was elected to serve Glasgow East in May 2015, the court was told, Young was asked around to the then MP’s home and was told it would be an opportunity to discuss the accounts.

But, she told the court, when she arrived there was another guest there.

Young said: “When we were there I think that was the first time I had some concerns. Natalie had a story about, I think her partner had taken a bank card and had no money, and asked the other guest to pay for shopping to make dinner with.

“It stuck in my mind as a bit of a strange thing to happen. It seemed an odd event to invite people around for dinner then asking them if they would pay for it.”

McGarry sat in the dock and listened as chartered accountant Young explained to Sheriff Tom Hughes and the jury that in November 2015, Women for Independence contacted the police about what had been uncovered.

Young told the court there was a 40% gap between what the group had collected and what had been spent.

The trial continues.