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

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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November Newsletter - Constituency Business

November Newsletter - Constituency Business

I’ve been working hard with the community to try and keep the TSB on Niddrie Mains Road open. The petition is going strong, if you haven’t signed it already pop in to my office, the Neighbourhood Alliance, the library or one of the many shops on Niddrie Mains road with petition sheets in them. We plan to present it to TSB on 4th November at 4pm – please come along and be part of the campaign to save our bank.

You may be aware of the decision to allow a large hotel to be built in the Old Town - at the site covering the beautiful A-listed India Buildings and the B-listed Cowgatehead. Alongside my piece in the Evening News, I’ve written twice to the Council’s Planning Convenor, and to the Local Government Minister to highlight concerns about the decision. The effects on the neighbouring Central Library, the finest Carnegie-endowed library in the nation, could be huge, especially the loss of natural light to the principal lending room. I fully understand the Council’s desire to sell some assets so it can look after others properly but we need to reflect on how we, as a city, go about this and make sure that we don’t sell off our heritage to the highest bidder.

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November Newsletter - Parliamentary Business

November Newsletter - Parliamentary Business

This month I presented Edinburgh East's WASPI petition to parliament alongside my SNP colleagues presenting petitions from across Scotland.  In the past month, there has rightly been a focus on refugees, the demolition of the 'Jungle' camp at Calais, the offensive in Mosul and the ongoing crisis in Aleppo.  I am concerned about some of the rhetoric we're seeing around refugees and want to take this opportunity to express the overwhelming view of my constituents: refugees are welcome here in Edinburgh and I'll do all I can to ensure that message is heard.  

During October the SNP had two opposition day debates.  One of these focused on reforming the House of Lords and in particular, the plans to decrease the number of elected MPs whilst increasing the number of un-elected members of the Lords - you can watch my speech from the debate here.  There is also a public consultation taking place on the proposed boundary changes (including to Edinburgh East) - find out more here. 

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Independence is still a simply capital prospect

Independence is still a simply capital prospect

Three and a half months on from Brexit and things are still as clear as mud. David Davies’ statement in the House of Commons this week told us literally nothing about how the Government intends to leave the EU. He talks of a Great Reform Bill, but seems to have no idea what should be in it.

Little wonder people are anxious. Many, from some unlikely quarters, are now asking if it might not be easier for Scotland just to become an independent country after all. Things are clearly going to change. The UK most Scots voted for in 2014 will not exist. The deal has changed. Perhaps the best way to give certainty to our businesses and citizens is to just go for it.

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SNP members must decide if they want to expand or stretch the leadership

SNP members must decide if they want to expand or stretch the leadership

We're nearly there.

The SNP Depute Leader contest is in its final phase. The last hustings debate is in Inverness tonight and most members have already voted. So this week, I want to reflect on what the job might mean.

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October Newsletter - Constituency Business

October Newsletter - Constituency Business

This year marks 20 years of the Ripple Project. It was great to be able to pop in and join them in their celebrations.  If you're not already aware of it, the Ripple Project is a community organisation and charity that works to improve the quality of life for residents of all ages in Restalrig, Lochend and Craigentinny. Their hub offers all sorts of activities from toddler groups and youth clubs to gentle exercise classes and a knitting network. Find out more on their website. 

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October Newsletter - Parliamentary Business

October Newsletter - Parliamentary Business

After the summer recess, Parliament began with a statement on the UK leaving the EU.  I had hoped that this would start to provide some answers as to what Brexit will actually mean but that proved elusive. After a few hours of bobbing up and down on the green seats I was able to ask about alternative arrangements for Scotland. It's my view that the appetite for a 2nd independence referendum will in large part depend on the actions of the British Government in the coming months. You watch a video of the question and the response I received here. 

The Government have approved the development of development of Hinkley Point C nuclear power station. I first got involved in politics as a school boy campaigning against the nuclear reprocessing plant, Windscale, on the Cumbrian coast. I joined Friends of the Earth and became a passionate advocate for renewable energy. It's hard to believe that 40 years later I’m an MP and arguing exactly the same thing. You can watch my question on the Government's decision here. 

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Developing a proper regional structure would make the SNP a more responsive, inclusive and accessible party

Developing a proper regional structure would make the SNP a more responsive, inclusive and accessible party

And so the election of a new depute leader of the SNP is underway. Indeed, if previous contests are anything to go by, most people may already have voted.

I’ve made organisational reform the key plank of my campaign. Central to this is developing a regional structure for the party, providing a bridge between the party leadership and branches on the ground.

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Four great candidates, one great big decision – and members must make it

Four great candidates, one great big decision – and members must make it

Tomorrow is the second anniversary of the first independence referendum. Getting ready for the second one is providing the backdrop against which SNP members are selecting a new Depute Leader.

Ballot papers go out in four days’ time to more than 100,000 members eligible to vote in the contest. Campaigning by the four candidates began six weeks ago, and the contest has certainly been thorough.

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Time to stop and think about our city’s future

Time to stop and think about our city’s future

I’m privileged to be a Member of Parliament – when your passion is politics there really is no better job. I’m even more privileged to represent Edinburgh East: a constituency that takes in the magnificent natural beauty of Arthur’s Seat, our historic castle and a world heritage site. We are a European capital to be proud of. But there’s something we need to talk about when it comes to the heart of our unique city: the controversy that is planning. Our city is growing and nothing stays the same. Development is necessary in a vibrant and dynamic city like ours. But I fear that our planners are at risk of leaving our residents behind as they chart the future. And there will be a bitter harvest if that is the case. 

Read the full article in the Edinburgh Evening News.

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I believe the SNP organisation needs an upgrade... and I'm the candidate to do it

I believe the SNP organisation needs an upgrade... and I'm the candidate to do it

We're past the halfway mark in the SNP depute leadership contest. Ballot papers go out in just 10 days’ time. This has been, and will continue to be, a good natured campaign – able candidates offering different views of what the job entails, discussing things in a respectful and thoughtful way.

So far there have been 17 hustings up and down the country with many more still to come. A few members have come up to me after these events a little frustrated. They complain that the meetings are meant to help people make up their minds and yet after hearing our presentations they are less sure of how to vote than beforehand.

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South Korean Dog Meat Trade

I should start by saying that I have campaigned for animal welfare since I was a teenager so I strongly sympathise with the points constituents have raised about the South Korean dog meat trade.  It's good news that younger South Koreans are choosing not to eat dog meat and I'm encouraged that this is being discussed more widely including at conferences. However, I would add a note of caution, I believe we must be sensitive when making judgements about another country's customs. I would gladly support the efforts of South Koreans who themselves want to change this practice, and would support the South Korean Government if it were to offer financial support during a period of transition for those involved in the dog meat trade.

The SNP is supportive of charities working with international counterparts to improve dog welfare globally. For example, the Jeanne Marchig International Centre for Animal Welfare Education, established at the University of Edinburgh’s Royal School of Veterinary Studies in 2011, is closely partnered with a number of international animal welfare charities and veterinary organisations. Their efforts to secure a greater level of animal welfare globally are important and we must continue to support organisations like this. My colleagues Martin Docherty-Hughes MP, Margaret Ferrier MP and Dr Paul Monaghan MP who, on behalf of the Scottish National Party, called on the UK Government to speak against the IOC’s judgment and ask the South Korean Government to respond to the dog meat issues identified at the debate, with a view to making the abuse of dogs in this trade illegal. I am in full agreement my colleagues on this.

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Community Councillors Needed

Community Councillors Needed

Have you walked down the street in your community, seen something you would like to change, and wondered how easy it would be to make that happen? Maybe it’s a neglected bit of land that could become a community garden. Maybe it’s a new development that you feel needs input from local people who will be affected. Maybe it’s improvements to cycle provision, or somewhere crying out for benches or a wall that needs painted.

Democracy functions on many levels, and in some ways the closer you are to the coal face the more you can be part of making actual, tangible changes happen. On Monday nominations opened for Community Councils across Edinburgh and I hope that many of you will consider putting yourselves forward for them.

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SNP depute contest is decidedly dignified

SNP depute contest is decidedly dignified

We’re pretty much halfway now in the ten-week campaign to find a new depute leader of Scotland’s main political party. And in stark contrast to other parties, the SNP contest seems a positive and good-natured one.

Sadly, there are no women in contention, but members do have a choice of four able blokes – any of whom could make a decent fist of the job.

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Women need a better deal ... we can't ease off the gas in our fight for equality

Women need a better deal ... we can't ease off the gas in our fight for equality

The contest for depute leader of the SNP is at the half-way mark. And it’s been an exemplar in how a democratic organisation should conduct itself. Able, thoughtful candidates have treated each other with respect and engaged with hundreds of party activists at dozens of hustings throughout the country. There’s just one thing that could have been better – it’s a shame this has ended up as a blokefest

The absence of any female candidates is a great disappointment and the contest would have been a richer one had there been some. We ought to ask ourselves why this happened. And we ought to make sure that it doesn’t mean that the position of women in Scotland and in our party gets less attention. I’ve heard a number of people remark that whilst it a shame there’s not a woman standing it’s okay since the party already has a strong female leader, and indeed is one of very few governing parties with a gender-balanced cabinet.

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West of Scotland Hustings - 25th Sept

All 4 candidates have been invited to a hustings in Greenock

WHEN - Sunday 25th September - 1pm 

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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...