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

March Newsletter - Parliamentary Business

March Newsletter - Parliamentary Business

I want to start this month's newsletter with a massive congratulations to my colleague Eilidh Whiteford who has worked so hard on her Private Members Bill. History has been made with the first piece of SNP legislation at Westminster as Parliament agreed to ratify the Istanbul Convention. There's still a way to go but this is a big step for those of us who want to see an end to violence against women. 

We began the month with the the Committee Stage of the European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill. The SNP group tabled 50 amendments to the legislation to ensure we have the right financial and social protections in place before the UK begins the process of leaving the EU. Despite our efforts the Bill was passed without a single amendment from the SNP (or any other party).

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Business rates response was democracy in action

Sometimes, democracy works. It worked last month with proposed changes to business rates in Scotland. Independent assessors recalculated what each business would be charged. Since it had been seven years since the last review it was no surprise that some would see big changes.

Two thirds of local businesses saw no increase or a cut but some were facing dramatic eye-watering hikes in their rates. The hospitality trade – hotels, pubs and restaurants – seemed to be worst affected. Business owners contacted their local political leaders in anger and panic. They feared, rightly, that the scale of the increases could put them under.

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The Facts on the Ground

The Facts on the Ground

The hills around Jerusalem were drenched in sun the last time I was here. It brought out their significance and history. This week, though, the Holy Land has been visited by a Scottish winter. As I peer through the steamed up windows of our VW Transporter, it’s decidedly dreich out there.

I’m here on a parliamentary delegation to see if the political mood matches the weather. The trip is organised by the Council for Arab-British Understanding (www.caabu.org) and Medical Aid for Palestinians (www.map.org.uk). Over four days we have a packed schedule of meetings with Palestinian and Israeli officials, human rights groups and the UK Foreign Office. We also get the chance to see first-hand what it’s like to live under a military occupation.

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Israeli Settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories

I am a longstanding advocate of the Palestinian people and am vice convenor of the All Party Group on Palestine.  I am very proud to have written the motion and worked with colleagues across the political parties to succeed in having the motion discussed in the main chamber.

It is clear that if there is to be a viable two-state solution then the occupation has to end and the settlers will either need to be relocated or become citizens of a new Palestine. It’ll be one of the most difficult and complicated negotiations in international conflict resolution. But unless a halt is called to the settlement building programme and both sides commit to starting peace talks the situation will only get worse.

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Green Investment Bank

The Green Investment Bank is vital because it funds innovative but high-risk low-carbon projects. This is crucial in Scotland where we have a huge amount of green energy potential. But in order for low carbon energy to become a low cost energy option we need investment in research and development.

I am extremely concerned about the privatisation of this important institution. Even more so since the reports that the privatisation may result in an asset stripping exercise. This goes against previous commitments made to the Scottish Government.

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February Newsletter - Constituency Business

February Newsletter - Constituency Business

Planning is always a hot topic of discussion. Baileyfield South is a brownfield site and, given the number of houses required to meet the need in Edinburgh, it's right that it should be used for residential development. But the application seeks to squeeze too many houses into the available space, which would be bad for both the existing neighbours and the future residents. Developers know that people want to live in a vibrant, lively community like Portobello but unchecked development pressure could harm Portobello’s character. I've put in my objections - the developer should withdraw it, rethink it and resubmit it.

If you’re not already aware, a process of revaluation of business rates has been undertaken.  I have been liaising with a range of business owners, particularly in Portobello, who are seeing rates increasing beyond all reason (nearing 500% in one case). I will be fighting their corner in the weeks ahead – there is no way these increases can be justified and we cannot see some of our most popular pubs, restaurants and cafes go under because of this.If you are a business owner and haven’t already checked your proposed rates change – please do so at https://www.saa.gov.uk/ and do let me know if you have any issues.

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February Newsletter - Parliamentary Business

February Newsletter - Parliamentary Business

The UK leaving the European Union is dominating everything in Westminster.  The Supreme Court rightly decided that Parliament had to have a say and as a result we had 2 days of debate this week. I managed to get in for a few minutes in the last hour of the debate and you can watch it here. I've also outlined my position on the vote here. 

The SNP Scottish Government has already produced their own paper outlining how Scotland’s position can be protected. Scotland can remain part of the European Economic Area (EEA) even if the rest of the UK does not – leading to a relationship with the EU like Norway has. It would enable us to retain access to the single market and retain the freedom of movement of people that our country needs and benefits so vastly from. If you’ve not already had a look I highly recommend you read the paper, Scotland’s Place in Europe. You can access it here.

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Palestine Debate

Palestine Debate

This time next week I will be proposing a resolution in parliament on the situation in Palestine. It’ll make a change from wall to wall Trump and Brexit. The resolution has cross party support including a surprising number of Tories. It calls on the British Government to lead in getting new peace talks started and on the Israeli Government to stop building settlements in occupied Palestinian territories.

But why? And why now?

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Trump

I write from the train, speeding towards London to begin another week traipsing the corridors of impotence. This week, as many, will be wall to wall Brexit as we debate the terms on which we should be leaving the EU, and try to protect Scotland’s position amid the chaos.

But something else is dominating the international agenda and consumes the imagination of every person who dares hope for a better world. Trump. What on earth has happened to America?

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The Supreme Court and Article 50

The Supreme Court and Article 50

You’ll not be surprised to hear that ever since the UK voted to leave the European Union, I have been receiving lots of letters and emails from constituents raising their concerns. While there have been a couple of requests asking me to respect the UK wide result and vote to trigger article 50, the vast majority have asked me to do all I can to protect Scotland’s place in Europe.

That’s not a surprise. In Edinburgh 74.4% of people voted to remain in the EU. For all its flaws, people across our city recognised the overwhelming benefits of EU – be they economic, cultural, environmental and civil.

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Holocaust Memorial Day

Holocaust Memorial Day

This week I signed the Holocaust Educational Trust’s Book of Commitment, in doing so pledging my commitment to Holocaust Memorial Day and honouring those who were murdered during the Holocaust as well as paying tribute to the extraordinary Holocaust survivors who work tirelessly to educate young people.

Friday 27th January will mark the anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi concentration and death camp Auschwitz-Birkenau, the site of the largest mass murder in history.

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Point of Order - Paris Peace Conference

Yesterday I raised a Point of Order in the House.

Yesterday there was an international Peace Conference on Israel and Palestine in Paris.

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Make the Air Fair

Over the Christmas break I've received lots of emails about the importance of high quality mobile service to my constituents and specifically about introducing a 30% cap in Ofcom's release of the total available mobile phone spectrum in the UK.

Improving mobile coverage is a high priority for the Scottish Government. We agree that mobile operators need to do more to expand 4G coverage in Scotland. To do so, we are working closely with the industry through our Mobile Action Plan. This aims to improve and increase coverage across Scotland. It includes an infill programme to extend coverage into rural areas not served by commercial rollout. We will announce our proposals for a Mobile Infill Programme by Spring 2017. Furthermore the Scottish Government are working with the UK Government to maximise the impact of the UK Government’s 4G-based Emergency Services Network and the development of a Mobile Infill Project.

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Fur Imports

There is absolutely no justification for the use of animal fur. We know that it is cruel. Animals who are bred for the fur trade suffer horrendous conditions whilst alive - cruelty, neglect and very painful deaths. It is also unnecessary. Fake fur is readily available for those that want to wear it. Many constituents have raised concerns that some people who believe they are buying fake fur are actually buying real fur – this must be properly regulated. Although I fear the UK government will not take the necessary action to make sure this happens. The SNP Government is responsible for animal welfare in Scotland as it is devolved. The SNP is committed to protecting and promoting the highest standards possible. However, when it comes to imports the best way to tackle the fur trade is to work in partnership with other countries. The European Union has played a key role in this. In 2007 SNP MEP Alyn Smith backed a campaign for a complete ban on the import and export of cat and dog fur. The European Parliament supported the ban and it was introduced at the end of 2008 across the European Union. However more needs to be done. I believe we would be more effective at strengthening all laws on the treatment of animals as part of the European Union where legislation would take effect in all countries in the EU and therefore have a much greater impact.

When it comes to voting on legislation relating to animal welfare I will always be looking for the highest possible standards – those you would expect from a decent, humane and civilised society.

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Tommy Sheppard: Brexit is here to stay as defining issue of today

Tommy Sheppard: Brexit is here to stay as defining issue of today

I did ten press-ups this morning. It’s a start. Like many others the first days of my fledgling new year are driven by diet and detox. After the season of Christmas party excess and forced bonhomie it’s time to reset the body. The road to hell and all that…

I write on bank holiday Tuesday. The last day before the start of a new political term; last day of distraction. Tomorrow I’ll need to fire through the gears and get up to speed for the political challenges of 2017.

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January Newsletter - Constituency Business

January Newsletter - Constituency Business

In the run up to Christmas, I put out an appeal for presents for those who wouldn't otherwise receive a gift. The generosity of constituents was overwhelming and I was delighted to be able to hand over bag after bag of gifts for all ages to the Trussell Trust Foodbank in Craigmillar. Thanks to everyone who donated.  

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January Newsletter - Parliamentary Business

January Newsletter - Parliamentary Business

Happy New Year to you and welcome to my January Newsletter.  Before parliament returns next week, it's a good opportunity to reflect on what happened in December and on the year ahead.  I don't think any of us could have predicted the political events of 2016 and I'm struggling to make any predictions about 2017. What is clear is that Brexit will continue to dominate in Westminster. Yesterday's resignation of the UK's ambassador to the EU, Sir Ivan Rogers, and his scathing comments since show that even the highest level of civil servants don't know what Brexit actually means. It's going to be an interesting few months ahead.

December saw two Private Members Bills (PMBs) from SNP Members of Parliament. The first was from Mhairi Black as she attempted to change the cruel system of sanctions in the UK benefit system. Unfortunately the bill was blocked much to the frustration of our group. We weren't even looking to scrap sanctions all together (unfortunately that can’t be done in a PMB) but the Bill would have made it compulsory for Job Centre advisors to take a claimant’s personal circumstances into account before issuing a sanction.

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Sky Takeover

The proposed takeover of Sky TV has concerned a significant number of constituents and I share many of your concerns.

When considering any takeover bid of media and news outlets, public interest must be prioritised by shareholders. Further to this, a takeover bid of this magnitude must be properly and robustly scrutinised. If any plans or detail require scrutiny by the Government this must be done in a fully transparent and thorough manner.

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Depute Leader Campaign Expenses

Earlier this year I stood for Depute Leader of the SNP.  At the time I made a promise that I would be transparent about the financial side of my campaign.  Any such campaign involves expenses and fundraising and I have set out a summary of these below. I am really grateful to everyone who supported my campaign either by donating directly or coming to one of the fundraising events.

In the end we raised more than we needed. I promised at the time that anything left over would be donated to the local campaign to support refugees. I’m delighted tell you that I have donated the surplus of £565.07 to Re-Act (Refugee Action Scotland) - a not for-profit international humanitarian aid project working to help bring vital supplies and support to the displaced refugees across Europe.

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Neonicotinoids and Bees

The issue of the effect of neonicotinoids on bee populations is very important to my constituents.  It is of great concern that bee populations are in decline and the data indicating that there could be links between bee populations, and bee health, and the use of pesticides such as neonicotinoids warrants alarm. This certainly needs further investigation and I am clear that restrictions must be kept in place until these links are better understood. I am well aware of the enormous positive impact bees have on our environment as pollinators, and I am glad the current restrictions will remain while the European Commission undertakes a review and further evidence is gathered. The restrictions which are applied in the UK are as a direct result of EU law. Unfortunately the UK did vote to leave the EU and, when that happens, it is likely that EU law will no longer apply. This would result in us being reliant on the UK Tory Government to enforce any further restrictions. Worryingly there are many instances when the choices made by the Tories seem greatly at odds with the best interests of the people of Scotland. Nicola Sturgeon has made it clear that she has a different mandate to that of Theresa May. In Scotland the result was that 62% of people voted to remain. The First Minister is now pursuing a course of action which will enable her to protect Scotland’s place in Europe. This would mean the many sensible laws that we share with our European neighbours, whether it be the restrictions on neonicotinoids, the European Convention on Human Rights or sensible targets for carbon reduction, would still stand in Scotland.

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Tommy's Blog Articles

Tommy Sheppard
11 December 2018
Tommy's Blog
Just when you thought things couldn’t get any more farcical, yesterday happened. Government ministers spent the weekend assuring us the vote planned for today would go ahead. Some were even claiming the PM might win it (it’s nearly Christmas after all, the season of miracles). Even late yesterday morning the Downing St press office were still telling us the vote was going ahead, while the PM was h...
Tommy Sheppard
23 November 2018
Tommy's Blog
It’s been a little while since I've written a blog on Brexit. Things are now moving quite quickly so I thought it might be helpful for me to share a few of my thoughts on where we are.The proposal put forward by Theresa May last week is not a good one and not one I can support. While the SNP Scottish government remain of the view that the best option for Scotland would be to remain in the European...
Tommy Sheppard
08 November 2018
Tommy's Blog
Media
The budget was last week. Did you notice? As squibs go, this one was pretty damp. We’ll be debating the detail in the finance bill next week but the real story is one of indifference and missed opportunity.Since the 2008 crash, governments across the western world have seen their revenues unable to meet spending. In the US and most European countries the response was to use the power and funds of ...
Tommy Sheppard
11 October 2018
Tommy's Blog
Media
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...