Tommy Sheppard

MP for Edinburgh East
Born in Coleraine, Northern Ireland in 1959, Tommy was educated at a local grammar school and, equipped with the requisite A levels, moved to Scotland to study medicine at Aberdeen University. He graduated with a degree in politics and sociology – the start of a lifelong interest in politics. He returned to Scotland in 1993 and established the Sta...nd Comedy Club in 1995, which he started as a hobby and built into a successful business. Tommy lives in Minto Street with his partner Kate and cocker spaniel Henry. More

Let's march towards a new vision for the nation

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We were supposed to set off from Johnston Terrace at one o’clock on last Saturday’s march for independence. In fact, it was a quarter past two by the time I turned into the Lawnmarket and began the walk down the Royal Mile to Holyrood.

That’s what happens when the biggest gathering in years descends upon the centre of Edinburgh and parades through narrow medieval streets. As a popular tweet quipped – we’re gonna need a bigger city.

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Case for more devolution in event of no-deal Brexit

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Going back to Westminster after the summer recess you can almost feel the impending doom in the air. It’s the calm before the storm. Everyone knows something bad is going to happen. Just not what exactly. Like waiting for the ghoul to reveal itself in a horror movie.

And as the dread unfolds the discussion about whether there should be another Brexit referendum will intensify.

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August News - Constituency

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As you may be aware, I love August. I get to sleep in my own bed every night, get out and about in the constituency and take in some of the Fringe highlights. As the MP for around 80% of Fringe venues I do feel I have a role to play in looking at how the city can benefit most from the summer Festivals.  I used my August column in the Edinburgh Evening News to do just that – you can read it here.I also ran my regular street surgery in the Old Town this month – focussing on the Canongate polling district.  Alongside individual problems and support, I talked with a number of residents about the issues affecting the community, many of which are enhanced by the influx of visitors from short term let concerns to the increase in litter and noise.

If you live in Craigmillar you’ll be well acquainted with the wonderful Green House. I had a great time helping Julie out in the Green House one lunchtime. It's a brilliant community resource - helping folk save money and the environment. If you're able to volunteer for a few hours, donate high quality goods or are looking for some bargains, make sure you pop in and support them!

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Why don’t our schools get the Fringe benefits?

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How’s your festival going? Are you thrilled to bits at the world’s largest arts festival being on your doorstep? Are you overdosing on culture in one of the 200+ festival venues? Or do you spend August grimacing as it takes twice as long to get anywhere and the city centre is taken over by hordes of impossibly enthusiastic young people.

Whatever your view on the summer festivals there’s no doubt that they’re here to stay. So maybe the question we ought to ask is how can we make them work better for the city all year round. We need to get away from the festivals being something that are done to the city, to a place where they are a product of it.

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July News - Constituency

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The benefit of being the MP for Edinburgh's seaside is that when the sun came out, I got to take the team (or at least those who work on a Friday) for a wee post work treat. Nothing better than finishing the week with an in ice-cream on the beach!

It was great to attend the opening celebration for The Edinburgh Tool Library which is now resident on the ground floor of Tribe Porty on Windsor Place. I had my eyes well and truly opened. This isn't just for craft enthusiasts wanting to share woodworking tools. In fact, the tool library has a wide range of kit available to assist even the most enthusiastic DIYer including power tools and other equipment. There are also fully equipped workshops with bench power tools where members can come in and do their own work/repairs. Lovely to meet Janet, one of the full time workers based at the centre. At only £20 a year to join - I didn't need much convincing.

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July News - Westminster

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It was yet another busy month in the Palace of Westminster. I started July with a Question to the Prime Minister.  For those who don't know, MPs enter a ballot to be able to ask something at PMQs. I enter every week and it really is just the luck of the draw as to if, and when, you get picked. This month I urged Theresa May to look again at the sale of Fort Kinnaird - it's simply not acceptable that Scottish taxpayers are being cheated out of £167 million from the sale of Crown Estate interests. Watch it here.

David Mundell was back in the hot seat for Scottish Office questions this month where I get to ask questions in my role as the SNP Spokesperson on the Scotland Office. This time I again focused on Brexit. The Chequers Plan completely changes the debate on joint governmental frameworks after we leave the European Union yet the Scottish Secretary confirmed he did not discuss the plan with the Scottish government beforehand. His shameful disregard for devolution continues. Watch it here. 

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Debate on Strengthening the Union

The UK government tabled a general debate on strengthening the union. You can watch my full speech from the debate here.

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Thoughts on the Growth Commission

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In 2016, Nicola Sturgeon announced that there would be a Growth Commission to explore Scotland’s economy and the potential that might occur after Independence. Andrew Wilson chaired the commission and in May this year they published their final report – you can read it in full here.

There have been many commentaries on the report, from different political persuasions. Below is my contribution – written for the Scottish Left Review in July 2018.

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Time to stop being allies of states that oppress women

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This month in parliament we celebrated the 90th anniversary of all women being allowed the vote with the passing of the 1928 Equal Franchise Act. This built on the Act a decade before which gave some women – those over 30 and either married or property owners – the vote. Every time we mark these historical landmarks I am struck not by how long ago they were, but by how recent.

The 1920s were an age of modernity. The beginning of commercial air travel, radio and television broadcasting. An Avant-garde in literature, art and music was revolutionising culture. New advances in medicine and technology were being celebrated. And yet most women were denied the right to vote by law. It seems like something from the Dark Ages. It’s quite shocking to think that there are many people alive today who were born in these times.

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Should we really be celebrating Westminster's democracy?

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We need to talk about democracy. The UK government recently hosted its first ever “National Democracy Week” – with no sense of irony.

We absolutely should be celebrating the 90th anniversary of the equalisation of voting ages for men and women. Nobody would argue with that.

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Claim of Right Debate

In the same way that a dog isn't only for Christmas, sovereignty isn't only for the 18th of September 2014. 

You can watch my full speech from this debate here. 

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June Newsletter - Constituency

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It was great to be able to celebrate the re-opening of Bellfield at their family open day. Congrats to the team at Action Porty for all their hard work in achieving such the community buy out and for creating such a fantastic resource for the area. 

As you may be aware, I've taken a serious interest in short term lets and the impact they are having across the constituency. This month I met with Council leader Adam McVey and Housing and Economy Convener Kate Campbell to discuss the issues and what actions the Council might be able to take.

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June Newsletter - Westminster

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It can't have escaped anyone's notice that the EU Withdrawal Bill was back in Parliament this month. And it came with some significant controversy. Given the large number of amendments proposed by the Lords you could be forgiven for thinking there'd be a decent amount of time allocated for debate but that wasn't to be. You can read my bumper blog on the main two days voting and the SNP reaction here but I'll pick out a couple of key points for you. 

The way the debate was structured, combined with the archaic voting practices of Westminster meant that there was just 19 minutes allocated to the impact of Brexit on devolution. And it wasn't only about Scotland - it included Wales and the rather significant issue of the Irish border. 19 minutes and it was all taken up by the Minister.  I recorded this video diary just after the final votes that night - it's fair to say we were feeling a little scunnered by it all. 

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Tories won’t grab our powers without a fight

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Brexit rumbles on. Last week the SNP walked out of parliament in protest at not being allowed to discuss House of Lords amendments that will seriously affect how we are governed. If we can’t have our say inside the chamber we’ll make our arguments outside.

Meanwhile the UK government say we’re scaremongering. What power grab say the Tories? They claim that the Scottish government will get more powers after Brexit and not a single power it currently has will be removed. Is this true? Let’s see.

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EU Withdrawal Bill Update - 15th June 2018

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Buckle up folks – here comes a bumper blog as this week saw the return of the EU Withdrawal Bill after its time in the Lords. Or, more accurately, we were back voting on the EU Withdrawal Bill given there was precious little time for any actual debate. Over two days we were supposed to debate and vote on 20 different changes to the Bill that the Lords had put forward.

You’ll likely have seen and heard that the SNP group walked out of PMQs on Wednesday after the Prime Minister failed to answer questions from our leader Ian Blackford on the constitutional implications of the UK government ignoring the will of the Scottish Parliament.  To be clear about what happened, Ian Blackford moved that the House meet in private – one of the few archaic processes available to us to express our discontent by ensuring an immediate vote. He was perfectly entitled to do so. The Speaker decided not to allow a vote immediately but instead to have the vote after PMQs.

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Insults won't change my mind about the monarchy

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I want to talk about the monarchy. Although not my intention this may upset some people. But before you reach for the keyboard to condemn me, please at least hear me out.

I’m a republican. Have been all my adult life. I don’t demand that other people be republicans but I do ask that we have a civilised exchange of opinion.

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It's time to talk about the monarchy

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Okay I know that it’s probably not the best time to try to start a discussion about the monarchy. With a popular prince wedding his celebrity sweetheart in a lavish event resplendent in the glitz and glamour of Hollywood, it might be best for dissidents like myself to keep our republican heads below the parapet.

Then again, with the nation’s attention focused on the royals because of the wedding, this might be just the time to ask how long we can go on like this.

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SNP's structure could make the difference for #ScotRef

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This is a piece about the SNP’s constitutional review. Exciting, huh? Well, maybe not, but important all the same.

I know – at least I hope – no-one joins a political party to debate its internal structure. And set against debates on Indy, Brexit and the World War III this is unlikely to get anyone’s political juices flowing. People are motivated by ideas and feelings, powerful emotions that propel us to action for change.

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The Great Return March Protests

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Since the 30th March Palestinians in Gaza have been peacefully protesting. They will continue until the 15th May - the 70th anniversary of the Nakba, the name Palestinians have for the events that displaced them from their homes when Israel was created.

The protests are billed as the “Great Return March” to make the point that it’s time to leave Gaza and go back to where they came from. But try that and they will be shot. As of April 15th, 35 have already been killed and 1300 injured as Israeli soldiers fire live ammunition into unarmed demonstrators.

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Urgent Question - Continuity Bill

Textbook example of a Government Minister not answering my question during Joanna Cherry's Urgent Question on the Continuity Bill. Westminster insisting the Scottish and Welsh Governments are subservient to them on devolved matters. That's why the Scottish government had to pass the Continuity Bill. It wouldn't be needed if the Tories were prepared to work in partnership.

 

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Tommy's Blog Articles

Tommy Sheppard
26 April 2018
Tommy's Blog
Media
Since the 30th March Palestinians in Gaza have been peacefully protesting. They will continue until the 15th May - the 70th anniversary of the Nakba, the name Palestinians have for the events that displaced them from their homes when Israel was created.The protests are billed as the “Great Return March” to make the point that it’s time to leave Gaza and go back to where they came from. But try tha...
Tommy Sheppard
29 March 2018
Tommy's Blog
Policy
We need to change the law on drugs. In fairness, that’s always been my view. But until now I’ve done little about it as an MP. Why? Partly because there’s always been something I’ve felt was a greater priority – and partly because I know well how views can be distorted and used against people in public life.But that changes now. Three different events over the past few weeks have made me realise t...
Tommy Sheppard
28 March 2018
Tommy's Blog
My work for you in Westminster
Contributions

I asked the Minister if the government would require the Electoral Commission to disclose donations for parties in Northern Ireland from before 2015. This follows allegations of dark money from the Constitutional Research Council, which is linked to the Scottish Tories, to the DUP. As usual, no straight answer.

 

Tommy Sheppard
23 March 2018
My work for you in Edinburgh East
Local Organisations
Tommy's Blog
Recently I visited the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh where I met the inspiring Resuscitation Research Group who are developing innovative approaches to improving the outcomes for out-of-hospital cardiac arrests.The group told me that every year in Scotland more than three and a half thousand people suffer a cardiac arrest, and unfortunately survival rates are very low at just one in twenty....
Tommy Sheppard
21 March 2018
Tommy's Blog
My work for you in Westminster
Contributions

The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland is unable to answer my question on the Irish Border. Legitimate questions deserve proper answers not the same old Tory rhetoric.