Women for Notoriety

At last, the SNP are in trouble. You can almost hear the squeals of delight. It’s what David Clegg and the one-eyed Record live for. When you’ve been systematically humiliated, rejected, reduced to electoral rubble and find yourself defenceless with neither leadership nor policy, you have to hang on to something. And somebody else’s woes will do. That yet another young Scottish woman politician has a difficulty is of no matter – just keep pushing to get her out…all that feminist solidarity thing can wait for another day.

Intriguingly, not one of Jennifer Dempsie, Michelle Thomson nor Natalie McGarry has been ‘convicted’ of anything. In politics, which should be the arena for a higher standard of probity, this makes no difference. It is enough to brand, accuse and smear. Job done. And behind each you’ll find the impressive figure of Jackie Baillie, exultant smile on face, pointing to the gallows. Grateful we are for one of such imperious moral standards and rectitude who has never put a foot wrong.

It would be interesting to ask voters which of the four women mentioned they would prefer. Ms Baillie might be in for a shock. As indeed might Labour if her campaign to oust Nationalist MPs were to be successful. In Edinburgh West Thomson has a 3200 majority but that’s over the Lib Dems. Does anybody see them surging to by-election success? And it’s the Tories who are in third with Labour back at number four on less than 12 per cent of the vote. There is little sign here of a potential Green rush either to take SNP votes. They came in with 2 per cent, fractionally ahead of UKIP.

Labour is in second position in Glasgow East but Natalie McGarry was swept in with a majority of 10,387. Looking at the polls, do you see Margaret Curran recovering that ground nine months on? McGarry has 57 per cent of the votes, a stonking endorsement. Of course if found guilty of some heinous crime, public support could in theory evaporate overnight but to whom would the disaffected turn? Would they welcome the return of Curran, the Trident-replacing, £180,000-a-year expenses claimant who was blamed by Johann Lamont for her downfall and who is disliked by another Glasgow fixer, Anas Sarwar? There is lingering discontent that a high proportion of party funds were directed to Glasgow East at the expense of other seats in the General Election meltdown. A by-election would be a serious test of Labour activism and just imagine the doubly crushing effect of losing seats twice over. Such an outcome would deflate further the oxygen-starved Labour effort, make certain a Labour rout next May and leave Dugdale’s leadership on life support. But I’m sure Jackie could come up with a good excuse. Ms Baillie should be careful what she wishes for.

I confess to being confused by her attempts to liken McGarry to Alistair Carmichael and the suggestion she was incorrectly elected. Carmichael admitted lying to the voters about the leak of a document designed to damage his opponents and not owning up until after he was narrowly re-elected. The court ruled ‘a false statement about his own personal character or conduct made before or during an election for the purpose of affecting his return at the election’ had the effect of engaging section 106 of the Representation of the People Act 1983.

The judges then stated that they wish to hear evidence in relation to two remaining issues – the distinction between a personal and political lie for the purposes of the act, and whether that lie affected the ultimate outcome of Carmichael’s election.

As far as we know, McGarry is implicated in funds from a separate campaign group going missing. They did so during the independence referendum, not in the General Election so the Baillie charge is irrelevant. Also did McGarry speak about this before or during the election? Did she lie to voters? Did she make a false statement about her character or conduct? Was she manipulating events illegally to ensure her election? Did it affect the outcome? Eh, no.

In the certain knowledge that I’ll offend someone, let me speculate nevertheless. The matter of the missing money has been referred to the police but there is no indication that a law has been breached. If she was nominated to have responsibility for the account, was she not therefore authorized to use the money? It seems WFI had not been incorporated into a formal entity at the time and therefore there were no rules or protocols to be observed when it came to expenditure. Whose money was it? If it’s raised for a campaign, does not an official of the campaign have the authority over it? If there is no legal entity in existence at the time, there is no entity to be ‘robbed’. There would certainly have been a matter of personal trust involved and that may be the reason for WFI disquiet but that’s a personal issue between the individuals involved. The public who donated are unlikely to have specified what their donation should be spent on in detail and so long as it can be said to meet the published description – spent broadly on WFI work in the referendum – there appears to be no comeback.

It looks like a breach of trust between individuals at worst and at best, a misunderstanding. Grisly and destructive of reputation for sure, but hardly terminal for her career, especially if they agree to a rapprochement based perhaps on some repayment. This is not strictly a party issue – it involves a separate organization composed of all parties and none – so there is unlikely to be a reason for the SNP to refuse her the whip. Where Baillie is right however is that both Carmichael and McGarry will be accompanied henceforth by the whiff of notoriety.

(Wonder why the Thomson is taking so long? If it’s mortgage fraud, the lender could tell the police in a single phone call.)



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38 thoughts on “Women for Notoriety

  1. I suspect a personal vendetta against both Thomson and McGarry from persons in the same organisation(s).

    • It’s pretty clear in Thomson’s case there’s someone around with a grudge – remember the obvious Ashley Madison fit-up?

      As to McGarry, I always thought that if any organisation involved in the indy referendum was a prime target for MI5 (and let’s not kid on, it must have been happening), it was WfI. Amateur organisation based largely on trust, targeting a portion of the electorate open to persuasion – women. Whether that plays into this case I have no idea, but it certainly seems a possibility.

    • Whether or not Ms McGarry is guilty of theft or whether it’s okay to use donated money as you please without accounting for it, the fact remains that she cannot account for more than £30K entrusted to WFI to use wisely. It’s unlikely she would have been elected if it was known that this is her modus operandi. So, yes, Jackie Bailey does have a point.

      • Thanks, Celia. Your sources for the £30k that’s being bruited about please? As in named source, or a “member of WFI told our reporter”. I suspect that of the money raised much was accounted for to the Electoral commission.

        You may, of course, know differently.

  2. Baillie clearly thinks that Carmichael should not have been elected to office because he lied and that IF McGarry is convicted of theft neither should she.
    I would agree with both of those positions but Baillie is being a bit presumptuous about the latter and it is more than the pot calling the kettle black with respect to Carmichael as far as her track record on lies goes.

  3. The two cases emphasise how important it is for SNP figures to be ultra careful in all their dealings. The MSM only need the slightest excuse to go into full-blown hyperbolic invective, accusations and denigration. Maybe most of the mud slides off but I fear some of it may stick.

    As for “politicians” like Baillie they are beneath contempt and the sooner they are gone the better, because they are not working for the benefit of Scotland and Scotland’s people, but simply to shout down the SNP.

    The different way the McGarry case is being publicised contrasts with the way the missing £10 in Dugdale’s office has been handled and how every issue, whether with the police or the NHS or whatever, is laid at the feet of the Scottish Government by the MSM and the BBC, whereas this vile Tory crew in Westminster rarely get blamed for anything. Makes me sick.

  4. This has been my take on the situation as well. The first thing we did in our Yes group was to properly constitute it, and appoint an experienced treasurer. I have no idea what WFI did in that regard, but if they didn’t get all their processes, systems and people in place early doors, then its quite likely that some of the expenditure may have been knee-jerk, chaotic, and unexpensed, If you throw in “unauthorised” then its probably because there simply was no WFI authority to inform. The “just get it done” mentality prevails sometimes. And whilst NM may have held the PayPal account, I’ve yet to hear who was the WFI treasurer during this time – we presume that wasn’t NM as she hasn’t been referred to in those terms. It all seems like an unholy “muddle not a fiddle” and if I had to stretch my guesswork to maximum, then WFI are landing this on NM as they don’t want the electoral commission going back through possibly unaccountable referendum spending and any sanctions and bad-press that brings about. Maybe it’s the group washing its hands and throwing NM under the proverbial bus to save group-face.

    • WFI had a flat committee structure with no designated ‘Treasurer’ as such. However, NM was in charge of finance and the electoral commission return.

    • It does show the danger of not keeping decent records, especially when large amounts are involved. Even if the organisation wasn’t formally constituted there’s always the possibility of somebody asking about the money, even if it’s only ” how much is left” after the referendum. WFI surely had a treasurer, there doesn’t appear to have been much liaison between Natalie McGarry and whoever was the treasurer.

  5. Good summation [no pun intented]. I quite like to see the BritNat press getting more and more hysterical over there desperation to “find” something on the SNP. I have confidence in the people of Scotland to decern BritNat gumph.

  6. A far bigger disgrace is Ian Murray abstaining on the Trident vote when he was so vocal in opposing it. Hypocrisy, double standards. Sleekit.

  7. I get WFI emails. Never managed along to a meeting yet as they are held when I can’t come. But there was an issue not long after the Edinburgh group was set up and a committee formed of allegations of bullying. I switched off at that point. So strongly suspect that as the group has become more formally instituted, somebody bossy is throwing their weight around and there are personality issues involved. Probably McGarry has annoyed certain more admin-focused people by not answering queries as quickly as some would like, or admitting, mea culpa, that she hasn’t kept adequate records during the informal phase and so hasn’t got a scoobie where exactly the unaccounted for money has gone.

  8. Derek, according to your ex-colleague, Brian Taylor on yesterday’s lunchtime Reporting Scotland, ‘Natalie McGarry may well be innocent’. Not only that he also mentioned Michelle Thomson in the same breath.

    In a report that included Aamer Anwar saying that we must remember the law presumes innocence until proved otherwise, clearly directed at the media onslaught at McGarry, it was incredible to hear Taylor state this. There is no ‘may well be’ about it. She is innocent until proved otherwise.

    It’s not just the DR at fault, the BBC are clearly trying to influence public opinion here.

  9. As I said elsewhere…

    Innocent until proven guilty – yes, of course.

    But WFI clearly have serious issues with her and her alleged inability to answer what seem like legitimate questions from her WFI colleagues, if the story on Common Space is accurate:

    “A source within Women for Independence, who did not wish to be named, said: “Natalie had been asked to account for the discrepancy on numerous occasions and failed to do so.

    “I really hope she can explain herself to the police in a way she couldn’t to Women for Independence. Then we can say ‘thank goodness for that’ and move on.”

    SNP candidate for Aberdeenshire East Gillian Martin, who sits on WFI’s national committee, also told Commonspace that McGarry had been asked to explain the figures by the committee ever since concerns arose in late summer, but had not done so.

    On the decision taken by the national committee on 22 November, Martin said: “We’re gutted that we had to, but when you notice something like that you have to go to the police.”

    A statement supporting the action was signed by all members of the 23-strong national committee except for McGarry herself, and two others who were uncontactable at the time”.

    What frustrates me about all this is how long it takes to get to the bottom of what seems like fairly straightforward issues/questions. The Michelle Thompson thing has been going on for ages and we, the public, are no closer to having light shed on it all.

    It’s going to be the same with Natalie unless she can come up with clear and simple explanations that will satisfy the Police and her WFI colleagues (and if she can it the begs the question why she didn’t do so back in July or even before then when WFI asked her – at least according to the WFI version of events).

    There’s also the basic hypocrisy of the Opposition on display here – the Tory leader being investigated for voting issues but carried on regardless; the LibDem MP for Orkney and Shetland who confesses to lying and has been in Court for possible breaking of electoral law still retains the LibDem whip at Westminster; the Labour MP up on assault charges yet still retaining the Labour whip at Westminster.

    I can’t stand that kind of hypocrisy and the media’s inability to highlight it. Why doesn’t Nicola call it out at FMQs? I really wish she would be more aggressive in taking on the diddies on the other benches. She has all the ammunition she needs from sites like this, Wings, Lallands and WGD. I really do wish she would use it.

    • Steve i’m sure Nicola could if she wished but why climb into the gutter with the likes of Dugdale, Bailey or Davidson. With Bailey already in the cutter would there be room for Nicola.

    • It’s maybe that she doesn’t get the opportunity? SNP send press release after press release that are regularly ignored

    • Gordon Bickerton

      I hope she’s not using the methods you refer to because she knows the public are fed up with yah boo politics. Answer jibes is fine by me, instigating them is lowering your standards to those of your opposition.

    • Steve, you should at least have edited the text you wrote in Wings. This and he one in Wings are near enough identical

      • I know Don – sorry.

        But not all read both and i am a busy man and I did say up front “As I said elsewhere”. I will try not to make a habit of it 🙂

        As for the other comments – i wasn’t asking for the FM to practice gutter politics. I was asking for her to defend herself more robustly – which is exactly what she did today and it worked for me!

  10. Is it not a standard tactic of British secret police to join campaign organisations and stir up disagreements and trouble from within?

  11. From some of the anonymous quotes printed there does seem a hint of personal vendetta against her as well possibly trying to damage the SNP, even to the extent of being uncaring about possible damage to WFI.

    If money is indeed missing they were perfectly correct to take it to the police and their press release is admirably brief and to the point, but whoever within the organisation is gabbing to the press is distasteful and bringing damage to not only McGarry and the SNP but to WFI and the independence cause. It almost reminds me of some of the typical left labour infighting we’ve all seen so much of in the past, where striking out at someone was all that mattered, no matter at what expense.

    Well written again, Derek, thank you. My own views are similar. I really can’t believe Natalie McGarry would divert such money for her own use, especially when she was on the point of becoming an MP. No one with even a modicum of sense would do that. But WFI, without proper accounting and in the beginning of formation to a properly instituted group, could well be guilty of ad hoc decisions and uncertain record keeping etc., and probably a good number of them were guilty of that at that time.

  12. Mabel I agree, and your third para makes a lot of sense. Why would someone in such a prominent position even think of doing anything untoward, when the opposition and the media are hanging around like vultures day in day out, waiting for the smallest scrap they can use.

    There are many possible explanations for what happened if one looks at it with a cool head, but her detractors are interested in only the one that puts Natalie in a bad light. Same with Michelle.

  13. A little off topic but Natalie McGarry has all the hallmarks of a New Labour career politician:

    Family political contacts – check
    Study for a degree not pursued into employment – check
    Policy wonk job – check

    ……..and then into a political post.

    So far so what?. What I cannot comprehend – and I can’t overstate this – is how she can be marrying a Tory Councillor. For someone who is so vocal about inequality the very thought should be total anathema. How can you love and make your life with someone with such opposing views of your communities? I despair of my elderly rightwingish relatives and having to listen to their views 4 or 5 times a year; but we’re stuck with family.

    It reeks of somebody with a lack of conviction who sees politics as means to a comfortable life.

    Does it make her any more likely to be financially dishonest? No. But I would not trust her politically as far as I could throw her.

    • Oh well I’ll just disown my sisters who both voted No because they work for an English company.
      I’ve a good friend who I met through a mutual love of the sport of Harness Racing.
      She’s an old fashioned Conservative from Welsh Hill Farming Stock who moved up here to be with her partner.
      I’ll just tell her to Get Tae as well then

      • Your sisters were short sighted and selfish. Of course you shouldn’t disown them. I believe I discussed family relationships in my comment.

        You have a friend who votes Tory*. So what? Planning on marrying her? Do you make your career around fighting for the rights of those the Tory ideology leaves behind? do you publicly deride your opponent for working alongside Tories – then marry one?


        *old fashioned paternalistic, decent, Goldie like? Rubbish – that party ended with Thatcher. I hope she had the decency not to undermine my children’s futures by voting NO.

  14. I realise that at the moment no new can be released however when this is all over I would hope WFI will reveal full details of when and what their efforts were to resolve this matter without taking it too the police.

  15. I’ve heard whispers of some left-wing SNP MPs defecting to Labour. Not over the SNP sleaze, but over policy. Do you know anything about that?

    • zoomer alert!

      Why would a left wing SNP MP defect to a right wing, warmongering, Trident loving, serially abstaining bunch of chancers like the Imperial Masters British Labour Party? Do tell.

  16. If Jackie Bailie could be proven beyond all reasonable doubt to have absolutely no skeletons in her own closet I would still find it impossible to connect with her politics and give her my vote. Just saying this because for some important reason I feel the need.

  17. “I’ve heard whispers of some left-wing SNP MPs defecting to Labour. Not over the SNP sleaze, but over policy. Do you know anything about that?”

    That would astonish me. After everything that Labour have done, and continue to do, to undermine Scottish interests, I can’t belireve that.

    Anyone defecting should only do so at the next general election, or stand for re-election now, thus giving the voters the choice.

    There is one SNP MP who has always struck me as a careerist, but apart from her, the others all appear to genuinely believe in a vision for a better society, and in independence as the way of delivering that.

    Its a vision that Labour stopped believing in decades ago.

  18. Derek, you could have dropped WFI an e-mail and asked them about their constitutional structure instead of just making stuff up. WFI first adopted a written constitution as an unincorporated association in July 2013. Might be a good idea if everybody just waited for the full facts to emerge before doing stuff like writing columns based on . . stuff they made up.

    • Hi. to be picky, an unincorporated association has no separate legal identity of its own separate from the
      members so they’re all individually responsible. And the BBC and the National reported the formal constitution only took place in March. WFI itself said its first AGM and adoption of the constitution was in March this year. So it’s hardly made up.
      Also, it’s a bit much to demand no speculation when you issued a long public statement pointing the finger. You may not like it but that’s the effect of your own actions.

  19. I assume you’re aware that the SNP is an unincorporated association too. And would, therefore, argue that anyone in receipt of SNP donations is . .. well, I can’t quite work out what you would argue on that one following your logic so far.

  20. […] it will and maybe it won’t – as yet it’s not even clear if any kind of crime has been committed. But it seems safe to say that that which once existed between Scottish […]

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