Natalie McGarry, the MP at the centre of a police investigation over missing independence campaign donations, has resigned the SNP party whip.
McGarry, who won the Glasgow East constituency in May's general election, was revealed on Monday to be under investigation after the campaign group Women for Independence called in police over "discrepancies" between donations made to the group and what it had spent. BuzzFeed News revealed an email that confirmed McGarry was responsible for the finance of Women For Independence.
Following the allegations, Scottish Labour and the Scottish Conservatives called on SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon to suspend McGarry from the SNP while the investigation continued. In a statement released on Tuesday afternoon, McGarry's solicitor confirmed the MP would no longer be representing the SNP in parliament.
"Natalie McGarry MP has decided to withdraw from the party whip although she is fully aware that this will lead to automatic suspension from the SNP," read the statement from lawyer Aamer Anwar. "She has taken this step 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. She has a proud record as a principled activist and states she is determined to clear her name."
McGarry is the second SNP MP to resign the party whip since the general election. Michelle Thomson also took the decision to withdraw from the party after police opened up an investigation involving her property dealings, and she now now sits in parliament as an independent MP. Anwar confirmed McGarry will also sit as an independent MP as she fights to clear her name.
"Fortunately in our legal system we still believe in a presumption of innocence," continued the statement. "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 WFI 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."
A spokesperson for the SNP confirmed that McGarry will be suspended from the party while the investigation is ongoing.
"Following the reporting to Police Scotland of issues relating to the accounts of Women for Independence, Natalie McGarry MP has today indicated that she will temporarily be removing herself from the SNP whip at Westminster, which as a result will see her membership of the Scottish National Party suspended while the matter is investigated," said the spokesperson.
"Natalie McGarry has taken this step in order to allow the full and proper investigation of the issue. She now hopes that the investigation can proceed as quickly as possible, is clear that there has been no wrongdoing on her part, and will not be commenting further until the matter is resolved."
A Scottish Labour spokesperson said McGarry "is right to resign" the SNP whip: "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."
Jamie Ross is a Scotland reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Edinburgh.
Contact Jamie Ross at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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