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

Community Renewal Scotland

Community Renewal Scotland

I had a great time meeting the folks at Community Renewal Scotland. Sheila McWhirter, Sean Connor and Archie Lowe took me through all the work they are doing across East Edinburgh and the projects specifically focused on Magdalene and Bingham.

They have a holistic approach which involves employability services for all but also a focus on supporting young people into employment and other positive outcomes such as training, education or volunteering. They have a Health Case Manager who offers individually tailored support from counselling to referrals. They also work with communities, listening to what they want and then helping people connect and become active and find ways to achieve change. This is what they have been doing in Magdalene and Bingham and they are now looking at how to build on the response from the community.

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Aberdeenshire East and Banffshire & Buchan Coast

Aberdeenshire East and Banffshire & Buchan CoastSNP Depute Leader HustingsChaired by Gillian Martin MSP

Come along to hear the candidates set out their case for the Depute Leadership, and have your opportunity to ask questions!

Candidates:

Cllr Chris McEleny (confirmed)

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SNP depute leader contest will show how it should be done

SNP depute leader contest will show how it should be done

There is still a week to go before nominations close and it already seems as if the contest to become depute leader of the SNP has been running for ages. Two weeks ago in this paper I threw my hat in the ring and I have been bowled over at the messages of support and encouragement I have received since. Already there is a strong field and I hope that before next Friday a few more might enter the race.

I am grateful to The National for offering me this column over the next 12 weeks to set out my vision for the SNP and share what I can bring to the role. And in case anyone gets bored, there will be stuff other than the election in here too.

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Why I'm Standing for Depute Leader

Why I'm Standing for Depute Leader

Over the past few weeks I have been approached by a wide range of SNP members asking me to stand for the position of Depute Leader of our Party. After much thought I have decided to do so. Here’s why.

At this critical time in our nation’s history we have a window of opportunity, yet we still have much work to do in a short time. To be successful we need to use all of the talents of our party. I believe the job of Depute Leader is key to our success.

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The UK voted for Brexit - so where do we go from here?

The UK voted for Brexit - so where do we go from here?

I write this barely 60 hours after finding out that the people of the UK had voted to leave the European Union – and in truth I’m still trying to get my head around it.

Shock was the first feeling. Sure, I knew that a leave vote was always on the cards, but somehow I never really believed it could happen. I thought in the final stages that enough had been done to save the day; that people would reject the narrow minded intolerance on which this most reactionary of campaigns was based. But it turned out that I was living in a Caledonian bubble and that England, outside of its metropolis, is indeed another country.

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Visit to the New Porty High School Site

Visit to the New Porty High School Site

Seriously impressed at the new Portobello High School which is entering the final phase of construction. The council and contractors are now confident that the school will be ready to move in for the half term break in October – and from what I saw today they look like they are on schedule.

Big thanks to Stuart Danskin from the main contractor Balfour Beatty who took time out to show me round the building. It’s massive – you’ve got no idea how big as you look in from Milton Road. Stuart’s in charge of an operation that had more than 150 workers on site the when I visited – and has had over 200 at one time.

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Let's change the terrain and target open minds

Let's change the terrain and target open minds

Four elections and a referendum: It’s been a helluva five years. With the new SNP Government now sworn in the party can at last move off a permanent war footing. It’s time to take stock, re-group and plan.

And what a change in the political terrain has taken place. The Labour heartlands are no more. Once the party of the working class, Labour is now only capable of clinging on to constituencies that contain a substantial liberal middle class committed to voting tactically to keep the SNP out. And the SNP, although still able to straddle the class divide in its appeal, is now without doubt the political representative of central Scotland’s working class communities.

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SNP win Scottish Election with Highest Ever Vote in Edinburgh

SNP win Scottish Election with Highest Ever Vote in Edinburgh

No matter how you look at it, the 2016 Scottish Parliamentary election was a convincing win for the SNP. The party was seeking an historic third term after nine years in charge at Holyrood. It got it. With knobs on. More votes than ever before in a Scottish parliamentary election and a bigger share of the vote too.

What’s not to like? Well, I guess the fact that even though it was its best ever performance the party still lost a few seats and narrowly missed out on an overall majority. That, though, is how the system is designed. It is almost impossible to get more than 50% of the seats unless you get more than 50% of the votes. Almost, but not quite.  Last time round in 2011 the SNP did just that, but in retrospect it’s pretty obvious that was something of a fluke, involving winning some unlikely seats by a whisker in three or four way marginal contests. Nowhere illustrates this better than what happened in Edinburgh.

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Marwan Barghouthi could bring peace and independence to Palestine. But he's in jail

14 years ago today, the Palestinian MP Marwan Barghouthi was jailed.  This week I sponsored a parliamentary motion calling on the Israeli parliament to release him.   

I, and the other MPs who have signed, are calling for his release so that he can play a part in the process of reconciliation, unification and negotiation that will be needed before Palestine achieves its independence. Barghouthi, now 56, is still the candidate in the strongest position to win a presidential election to succeed Mahmoud Abbas, according to a recent poll by the Palestinian Centre for Policy and Survey Research.   And precedents has been set - just look at South Africa, where Nelson Mandela was released from prison so he could take part in negotiations for majority rule, and India, where Gandhi and Nehru were released by the British so they could take part in negotiations for independence. 

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Easter Holidays

Easter Holidays

So it has been a busy old recess kicking off with some canvassing and campaigning over the Easter weekend. My Westminster constituency takes in parts of four Holyrood constituencies so I am doing my best to get around all of them.

The four fantastic Edinburgh SNP candidates are Ash Denham for Edinburgh Eastern, Alison Dickie for Edinburgh Central, Ben McPherson for Edinburgh Northern and Leith and Jim Eadie for Edinburgh Southern. Here’s me with Ash and some activists at a street stall in Portobello.

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The Positive Case for Europe

The Positive Case for Europe

I will be voting to stay in the European Union in June. This is not in the belief that everything is in perfect working order, but in the hope that we can work with neighbouring countries to turn it into a much better institution than it is now.

I hope that Scotland will soon be an independent country but to get things done, whether at home or abroad, we will have to work together with other countries. An independent Scotland will have to work with the rest of Britain on a great number of things. And we’ll certainly need to work together across Europe. This means choosing to share or pool sovereignty and there’s nothing wrong with that - providing that choice is freely made and people have the right to change their mind.

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Register of Interests

The Sunday Express recently reported that I have broken one of the rules of the House of Commons. These things have a way of getting out of proportion, so I wanted to be very clear with everyone about what has happened.

All MPs have to register any outside interests, including shares they own in private companies.

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Portobello Toddlers Hut

Portobello Toddlers Hut

Tucked away near the Beach in Porty is a little gate in a wall. I must have sauntered past that gate may times but recently I managed to get to the other side to discover the wonderful, community run, Portobello Toddlers Hut.  I had no idea it had been running as a toddlers group since in 1929, making it one of the oldest community run childcare facilities in the UK.

I was warmly welcomed by a number of parents on the committee along with staff and volunteers.  There was the usual February wind blowing on the prom (as you can tell from the photo!) but the toddlers didn't even seem to notice as they played happily outside in the yard of the hut. It was great to hear about the history of the place alongside the activities the current toddlers enjoy. The new book corner looks particularly inviting.

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Israel/Palestine is a powder keg waiting to blow

Israel/Palestine is a powder keg waiting to blow

“Welcome to Israel” she said with no more sullenness than passport control officers the world over. And that was that, I was through. No “just follow me sir” to a windowless room, no search, no hassle. My colleague Hameed, who was organising our trip, wasn’t so lucky. An hour and a half later he joined our party on the other side of customs. We’re here on a four day trip from the UK parliament: six MPs, three Labour, and three SNP.

This is a report of what we saw and what we heard in discussions with over 20 MPs, NGOs, academics and a few punters too. Things aren’t good. Israel/Palestine is a powder keg waiting to blow. With everyone’s eyes on Syria and Yemen today and Iraq and Iran before that, the problems on the shores of the Med have fallen down the international agenda. And yet whilst solving the Palestinian conflict wouldn’t automatically lead to peace in the wider region, it would sure make other resolutions a damn sight easier.

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Money, Money, Money

Money, Money, Money

Prestonfield Primary School held a money week from Monday 8th to Friday 12th February.  It was a fun filled inter-disciplinary approach to learning where children learned about money, and the management of it, through a wide range of activities.

I was invited to a special showcase event at the end of the week, along with parents and other supporters of the school.  At the event, every class made a short presentation (even the Primary 1s) about what they had learnt during the week. We heard about class visits to places such as The Museum on the Mound (The Money Museum) and the Trustee Savings Bank (TSB) at Cameron Toll Shopping Centre. One class even had a visit to Pizza Express to learn about how a real business works.

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BBC Charter Review consultation and other stories…

BBC Charter Review consultation and other stories…

I’ve had a lot of correspondence recently about the BBC. Its charter – which sets out how it is governed and funded - is currently being reviewed by the UK Government and people are understandably uneasy about what that could mean for public service broadcasting across the UK. To inform the review, the Government initiated a public consultation exercise last July. This closed in early October and since then we’ve heard nothing.

Last month I wrote to John Whittingdale, the Secretary of State for Culture, pressing for an answer on what is happening with the consultation. I have now received a response from one of the departmental Ministers and this is below.

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Fiscal Framework an' a' that

Fiscal Framework an' a' that

Frustrated doesn’t begin to describe my mood yesterday when – for the fourth time in as many months I was down to speak in a debate in the Commons and didn’t get called. Of course, there’s no guarantee that anyone will get called by the Speaker and there’s a degree of chance and randomness about having your say. It’s also the case that the more you speak in debates, the less chance you have of being taken, as priority will go to someone who has spoken less. I’m now falling foul of that rule; although it doesn’t seem to apply to John Redwood – a Tory MP who seems to get to say his piece on pretty much everything!

Yesterday’s debate was on the negotiations taking place between the UK and Scottish Governments on the fiscal framework that will underpin the transfer of new powers to Scotland as set out in the current Scotland Bill. As subjects go, it’d be hard to think of anything more important to Scotland, and yet only four Scottish MPs were able to contribute including the Tory Secretary of State and his Labour shadow.

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The powder keg that is East Jerusalem

The powder keg that is East Jerusalem

I don’t know if it's because I've never been to an Arab country in the winter before. Or if I was brainwashed as a kid into thinking the Middle East must be hot all the time. Whatever, there's something very incongruous standing in a main street in Amman looking at lots of colourful Arabic shop signs whilst buttoning  an overcoat against cold, wet sleet.

I’m here on a parliamentary delegation funded by the Palestinian Committee of the Jordanian Parliament. Both our hosts and the weather have gone out of their way to make us feel at home: it’s dreich and miserable, worthy of Scotland at its worst.

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Community Alcohol Partnership (CAP)

Community Alcohol Partnership (CAP)

Earlier this month I met with the Portobello and Piershill Community Alcohol Partnership (CAP). Across the UK there are CAPS taking place in over 100 areas – the one in Edinburgh East being a Scottish Pilot. The CAP began in 2013 and brings together key local services (e.g. police and schools) with local businesses (supermarkets and independent retailers) and voluntary agencies.

The CAP aims to support Young People to have a balanced view of alcohol and to reduce alcohol related anti-social behaviour. Indeed, our local CAP has seen significant results in its short time: there’s been a 17% reduction in alcohol related anti-social behaviour in just 2 years.

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Education Maintenance Grants

Education Maintenance Grants

Yesterday there was an Opposition day debate on Education Maintenance Grants. At first glance, this might seem like an issue that shouldn’t affect a Scottish MP – education is, after all, devolved to the Scottish Parliament.

That’s what the Speaker of the house has decided, making this piece of legislation part of EVEL (English Votes for English Laws) – although in this case it is an English and Welsh law. However, many English and Welsh students come to Universities in Scotland and become our constituents. For us here in Edinburgh East, a constituency that takes in the University of Edinburgh, students make up a large section of the community.

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