MP Natalie McGarry Withdraws From SNP Whip

SNP MP Natalie McGarry has withdrawn from the party whip as police continued to investigate concerns over missing donations from the prominent pro-independence group she helped to set up.

Her withdrawal will result in automatic suspension from the party.

Ms McGarry, a co-founder of Women For Independence who was elected MP for Glasgow East in May, insisted on Monday there had been "no wrongdoing on her part'' after police were called in about tens of thousands of pounds of missing donations.

In a statement issued by her solicitor, she announced she had taken the decision "in the best interests of the party and the constituents of the east end who voted for her''.

"She maintains she has done nothing wrong but is conscious that the events of the last 48 hours are distracting from the job she was elected to do on behalf of the SNP,'' the statement said.

"She has a proud record as a principled activist and states she is determined to clear her name.''

Women for Independence reported discrepancies between donations made to the organisation and its expenditure after concerns were first raised during the summer.

The group said it had been examining its finances relating to a period between 2014 and its formal constitution as an organisation in March 2015.

The organisation was founded in 2012 and continued campaigning after playing a leading role in last year's referendum on Scottish independence.

The statement from Ms McGarry's lawyer Aamer Anwar continued: "Fortunately in our legal system we still believe in a presumption of innocence.

"What has been reported to Police Scotland are financial discrepancies, yet they have not even established whether criminality is involved.

"Yesterday at Natalie's request I contacted Police Scotland to advise them that she would speak to them if they wished to.

"Today I have instructed forensic accountants to obtain all the necessary information which will then be provided on Natalie's behalf to Women for Independence as well as Police Scotland to assist them in reaching a swift conclusion, until that happens Natalie will on legal advice be making no further comment.

"She will continue to fight for the people of the East End.''

Ms McGarry's decision to withdraw from the SNP's whip comes just hours after the party's leader and First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said she wanted more information about the basis or substance of the allegations before taking any action.

Scottish Labour and the Conservatives had called for the MP to be suspended.

Labour's Jackie Baillie said: "Natalie McGarry is right to resign the SNP whip. It is disappointing that as the leader of the SNP, Nicola Sturgeon didn't act earlier.

"We now need to know who knew what, and when, in the SNP about these allegations. Nothing short of full transparency from the SNP will be accepted by the Scottish public.''

Scottish Tory deputy leader Jackson Carlaw said: "The SNP is all over the place with this.

"First of all Nicola Sturgeon dithers and takes no action, then hours later Natalie McGarry takes it upon herself to resign the whip.

"This still doesn't answer the question of the SNP's poor record on vetting.''

Earlier this year MP Michelle Thomson resigned the SNP whip over her links to a series of property deals currently under investigation by the police.

She denied any wrongdoing and said she would co-operate fully with the police inquiry.