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

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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The Sale of sick and underage kittens

As someone who has been involved in campaigning for animal rights since I was a young man, I can absolutely sympathise with the aims of the campaign to improve kitten welfare. Separating kittens, or puppies, too young from their mothers causes lasting damaging, both physical and psychological. Animal welfare is devolved and I am pleased to say that in Scotland we already have legislation put in place by the SNP Government. In Scotland you are not allowed to sell a young cat or dog except where you hold a licence or where you are selling the offspring of a cat or dog that is kept as a pet. Breach of these rules can result in a fine or up to three months imprisonment. When granting a licence the licensing authority must ‘have particular regard’ to certain criteria being met. These include the conditions that the animals are kept in, that they are well fed and have access to water, that they are visited regularly, protected from dangers such as a fire or other emergencies and that the all reasonable precautions are taken to prevent and control the spread of infectious and contagious diseases. There is also the clause that ‘the licence holder must not, without reasonable excuse, keep a cat or dog which is less than 8 weeks of age at any time unless that cat or dog is accompanied by its mother’. You can look at the detail of the Scottish statutory instrument here.

The Scottish Government are committed to a review of this legislation with a view to strengthening it further. They are currently discussing animal welfare legislation in Scotland with stakeholder groups and will undertake a full public consultation meaning any changes will be based on sound evidence. I would like to see the legislation strengthened to ensure that any loopholes are closed as I believe the welfare of animals should be a priority for any decent, civilised society.

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December Newsletter - Constituency Business

December Newsletter - Constituency Business

We handed in our petition to the TSB branch on Niddrie Mains Road a week before it was due to close. Sadly, despite vocal protests from local residents and our petition having nearly 1000 signatures, it did close. The situation has been made worse by the Post Office closing a couple of weeks earlier. There will undoubtedly be an impact on residents who find it difficult, for a variety of reasons, to travel that bit further. This week I wrote to the bosses at TSB and at the Post Office. I asked the bank to provide some pop-up banking services and I asked the Post Office to hurry up and find a new postmaster. We will keep asking until services to the area are improved.

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December Newsletter - Parliamentary Business

December Newsletter - Parliamentary Business

Welcome to my December Newsletter.  The past month has been a busy one - at the start of November the High Court ruled that Parliament should have a debate and vote on triggering Article 50.  While Theresa May is appealing to the Supreme Court (we'll hear the outcome later this month) I do feel that parliament should have a say on this. It’s clear that a small majority voted for Brexit without knowing exactly how it might happen and having been lied to about what the consequences might be. There is a danger that some people may seize on this as a mandate for their own narrow interpretation of the UK's future relationship with other countries. To prevent that happening I believe parliament must be the body that decides on the Brexit plan.

There has been a focus this month on opposing the Tory government plans to cut ESA benefit both through an opposition day debate and through a back bench debate led by my SNP colleague Neil Gray. I spoke in both of these debates - in the first I felt it was important to share the experiences of two constituents whose lives would be devastated by the loss of £30 a week. You can watch this here. In the second I talked more generally about the broader impact of the cuts which you can see here.

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The Balfour Declaration

Next year is the centenary of the Balfour Declaration. If you’ve not heard of it, you will do. This 67 word statement by Sir Arthur Balfour, then British Foreign Secretary, is claimed by many to be the first public iteration of the British government’s support for a Jewish state in the Middle East. Despite its brevity it also declared support for existing Arab people in the region. Some, especially those who feel affinity with the State of Israel, see the centenary as a cause for celebration, and have begun the process.

I cannot agree. I find little to celebrate in that part of the Middle East today. Israel, which has become one of the most heavily militarised countries in the world, continues its illegal occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem and its blockade of Gaza, territory designated by the international community to become the fledgling State of Palestine. The resentment fuelled by the daily oppression of the occupation feeds a seething resentment of Israel, creating permanent tension and insecurity. Rather than seek a solution the right wing government of Israel is step by step annexing land by building illegal settlements across the occupied territories. This whole area is a powder keg that could blow at any time. Reasons to be cheerful? I think not.

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The week ahead

The week ahead

It’s just before 10am on Monday morning and according to the Virgin Trains website I’m hurtling towards London at 103mph. At this rate we might even be on time. It's been a while since I wrote a blog so thought I'd give you an insight into my week ahead. 

It’s looking like a busy week in the political equivalent of Hogwarts. As soon as I get in I’ve got a meeting with the Parliamentary Commissioner of Standards to discuss her review of the Code of Conduct which MPs need to adhere to. I’m my party’s representative on the Standards Committee which is overseeing the review and I’m keen to press her to tighten up in a number of areas.

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