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 Stand 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.

Submission to Short-Term Lets Consultation

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I know that short-term lets are a big concern for a lot of people in Edinburgh East. Many people have experienced anti-social behaviour from a flat let out for a stag weekend. Many others are feeling the impact that short-term lets are having on the housing market, both buying and renting, as homes are turned into unregulated and lucrative mini-hotels. This is driving up rents and house prices because homes are being taken out of housing supply at a time when Edinburgh's population is growing. Online platforms such as Airbnb have caused the number of short-term lets to mushroom because it's never been easier for visitors to find cheap accommodation.

This kind of 'disruptive' technology often leaves existing regulation not fit for purpose which leaves policy makers needing to catch up. The Scottish Government and the City of Edinburgh Council are moving decisively to deal with this new landscape. I wanted to make my own views known - this is my contribution to the Scottish Government's Short-Term Lets Consultation.

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Will Boris Johnson’s Brexit Britain be forced on Scotland?

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The wait is nearly over. By next week the Tory party will have a new leader. And then they will foist him on the country at large. With most of the votes cast it seems that the clown prince is unstoppable. Barring a miracle Boris Johnson will be our next Prime Minister.

And then what?

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Good Morning Scotland - Drug Inquiry

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Good Morning Scotland discussed the Scottish Affairs Select Committee Inquiry into Problematic Drug Use this morning.

I was interviewed with Adam Tomkins MSP. Listen to the full interview here.

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Why the time is right to change our mind

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Democracy means the right to change your mind. Collectively, people can decide to do something, and if it doesn't work, or they don't like it, they can do something else. That much shouldn't be in doubt for the left - or any democrat. There's no argument in principle against having a second referendum - on anything - if that is what people want.

Then again, you can't go changing your mind every week, or even year, or nothing would ever be settled. So, when is it right to have a second vote? I'd argue three things need to be considered. First, has the information on which the first decision was based changed or proven to be have been wrong? Second, have opinions changed - at least enough to suggest a different result? Finally, is the legislature charged with implementing the decision unwilling, or unable, to do so.

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June News - Constituency

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Thanks to Headteacher Norma Prentice and her team for making me welcome at Castlebrae Community High School's Award Ceremony this month. Well done to School Dux - Alex Husain, to Proxime Accessit - Manon Muarage and to all the prize winners.

Next year more new students will join the school in S1 than there were on the entire school roll 5 years ago. And work on the new school building is due to start by the end of the year. Congratulations to all involved.

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June News - Westminster

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June was a strange month. As busy as ever but with nothing happening. It seems like much is on hold while the Tory party decide who our next master is. But here are some of the things I was up to last month. 

When the EU extended our exit date to the 31st October, the message was clear: do not waste this time. Yet wasting time seems to be the aim of the game in Westminster until we know the outcome of the Tory leadership contest. There was one attempt to take control of the business of the House this month to prevent a no-deal with a Labour motion. However, once again the Labour party failed to organise itself and the despite all 35 SNP MPs voting for it, the motion was defeated 298-309.

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Tackling the Drugs Crisis

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It was a misty murky morning as we pulled up at the community health centre in the Sandy Hill suburb of Ottawa. We’re here to visit the Oasis project which provides services for people with a serious drug problem. At the core is a consumption room where people can inject their own drugs in a safe manner supervised by trained medical staff.

On first impressions this looks like any medical centre I’ve ever been to. A bright reception desk with staff in uniform behind. Corridors leading to treatment rooms. Easy chairs in the waiting area. Posters and leaflets everywhere.

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10 reasons to change your mind about illegal drugs

consumption-room-Canada

In two weeks’ time we’ll know the number of drug related deaths in Scotland last year. Most people expect the figure to top 1100. Most of these deaths were preventable – they shouldn’t have happened.

They include people who overdosed by accident because their street drugs were cut with lethal toxins. Or people who had respiratory failure brought on by a cocktail of depressants. They didn’t mean to die.

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May News - Constituency

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Full kudos to the school students who were back out on strike this month, making their voices heard on Climate Change. I was pleased to be able to speak at their protest and offer my support. And it was great to hear so many passionate speeches from young activists.

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May News - Westminster

Drugs-inquiry

The election we didn't think would happen, did. And Edinburgh once again rejected Brexit decisively. 72% of those who voted chose to vote for a party that explicitly wants to remain in the EU - the SNP, Liberal Democrats, Greens or Change UK. And across Scotland the SNP returned the highest vote share of any party in the UK sending three MEPs to Brussels. I'll be doing all I can to ensure they get to stay there beyond October. On election day I had a column in the Edinburgh Evening News giving my take on what I thought might happen: I think it still stands.

Theresa May has, finally, resigned from office. But she hasn't gone yet. She'll leave as leader of the Conservative Party on the 7th June but remains as the Prime Minister until a new leader is selected - likely to be the end of July. In reality, I can't see how a new Prime Minister can change much in terms of the Brexit deal. The EU have been clear that they won't re-open negotiations on the Withdrawal Agreement and Parliamentary arithmetic remains the same. As it stands we're due to leave the EU on 31st October with, or without a deal, and parliament must act to ensure we don't have a no deal Brexit by accident - or indeed by design given what some of the candidates are saying. 

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EU elections: Why the Brexit crisis is going to get worse

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By 10pm it’ll all be over. Several million people in Scotland, and tens of millions across the UK, will have voted in the election we thought would never happen.

I’ve no idea what the outcome will be. Whereas in mainland Europe voters are discussing climate change, tax, jobs and the future of our continent – here it boils down to whether you want to leave or remain. My only prediction is this: the result in Scotland will be markedly different from that in the rest of the UK. In terms of votes cast and members elected I predict Scotland will reject Brexit by an even bigger margin than it did in 2016.

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April News - Constituency

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The main benefit of Brexit taking more of a back seat was having a bit more time in the constituency during April. I hold regular advice surgeries and it's always great to see what's going on in the buildings while I'm there. I got to join in with a spot of body bingo after holding my surgery at ⁦the Restalrig Lochend⁩ hub - a welcome change of scene!

Regular subscribers to my newsletter will know that I've long campaigned for regulation of short term lets. The impact of companies such as Airbnb on the area are obvious to all - particularly on communities such as the Old Town. So I welcomed the First Minister's announcement at last weekend's SNP conference of a new public consultation to control the number of lets and ensure they make a contribution to the services they use. Take part in the consultation here

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April News - Westminster

Greta

It's strange to think that a month ago we were due to be leaving the European Union. With the leaving date pushed back to October 31st Parliament took a short Easter recess allowing us all time in our constituencies. And now it almost seems as if no-one is even talking about Brexit. 

Of course, I am going to talk about Brexit but before I do I want to talk about the other big topic that has hit the headlines - Climate Change. About time. Protesters like Extinction Rebellion and campaigners like Greta Thunberg have managed to do something hundreds of well-penned articles in newspapers have not: put the destruction of our planet front and centre. 

Protecting the environment and preventing climate change must be a priority - it is the number one issue facing humanity. I used my latest Edinburgh Evening News column to raise the issue and I’m proud that at the SNP party conference delegates unanimously passed my resolution on climate change. You can watch my speech here. And on Sunday the First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, declared a Climate Emergency making Scotland the first country to do so. It’s vital now that we follow up these words with actions. 

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Extinction Rebellion has got my support, and here’s why

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Forty years ago in the sweltering summer of 1979 I got myself arrested at Torness. I was one of hundreds protesting against the construction of the nuclear power station. For my efforts I got to spend a night in the cells at Dunbar nick.

As the then Thatcher government was keen to point out - we didn't stop Torness. But as I'm keen to point out it was a tipping point. The time when nuclear energy lost its halo. The time when mainstream opinion realised it was actually a very expensive, quite dangerous, and of course non-renewable form of energy.

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March News - Westminster

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So it's April 1st. And we're still in the EU. A short reprieve but a very welcome one. It's difficult to give a concise report on what's happened this month but I'll do my best. On Friday we had another vote on the Prime Minister's Deal. It wasn't a "meaningful" one but one on the Withdrawal Agreement without the Political Declaration. Even with that compromise the result was a resounding defeat for the UK government.

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March News - Constituency

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Brexit was a key focus in the constituency this month (unsurprisingly).  I hosted a public meeting in Portobello - a huge turnout of folk packed into Bellfield and the message was clear - they wanted a People's vote and to stop Brexit. Huge thanks to Kristy Hughes and Kirsty Haigh for joining me and sharing their expertise.  And thanks to Tollcross Community Action Network who invited me along to speak at a discussion on the Future of Immigration after Brexit. Plenty of food for thought.

 

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Embrace the EU elections and make a stand on Brexit

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For many months the government has wielded a number of sticks to beat MPs into supporting its Withdrawal Agreement. It might be bad, they argue, but the alternative is worse. Remainers have been threatened with no deal. Leavers with no Brexit.

The latest big stick is the threat of having to participate in the European parliamentary elections. To avoid this the Government (and the EU’s) new deadline to get an agreement finalised is May 22nd, the day before the elections would take place.

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EU elections are chance to show UK wants to Remain

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So we’re not leaving the European Union tomorrow after all. As the Brexiters cancel their street parties and put away the bunting the rest of us should think carefully about what to do with the reprieve.

This week started with parliament voting to take control of the process from government. A move without precedent. In truth, we were forced into it. What else can you do when faced with a government welded to a deal nobody wants and unwilling to change one dot or comma. Someone has to find a route to a majority. So now we’re starting to see what a majority of MPs can agree on. A process that should have started two and a half years ago.

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It's Brexit Groundhog Day at Westminster

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Four weeks ago I was worried about writing this column on the eve of the last major parliamentary debate on Brexit. Anything could have happened, rendering my speculation obsolete by the time you read it. I shouldn’t have fretted. Anything could have happened but nothing did.

Here I am again. Groundhog day. It’s Tuesday. There’s a big debate tomorrow.

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Brexit ‘chicken’ is a risky game for all of us

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Tuesday. Another day spent discussing Brexit. Another day of my life I’m not getting back.

We are no further forward. As the clock ticks down to exit it’s only fair to ask: What the hell is Theresa May playing at?

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Tommy's Blog Articles

Tommy Sheppard
03 January 2020
Tommys Blog
Media
Is it just me or does last month’s election already seem a long time ago? That last week in parliament was a pretty turgid affair. Self-congratulation by the tea-room Tories was matched by remorse and recrimination as Labour losers cleared lockers and desks. And then it was Christmas. There was no settling of the dust, no clarity on what the election results actually meant.That starts now. Not for...
Tommy Sheppard
13 September 2019
Tommys Blog
Media
At two minutes past ten on Wednesday morning I was sitting in court number one just behind St Giles on the Royal Mile. A minute later Lord Carloway announced the unanimous decision by the appeal court judges that the British government had acted illegally in proroguing parliament.  There was an audible intake of breath as the decision hit.I was pleased to join my colleague Joanna Cherry QC, and ot...
Tommy Sheppard
09 September 2019
Tommys Blog
My work for you in Westminster
I've had a few emails recently from people who are asking about the SNP position regarding a general election.While I recorded some video updates last week, one of the limitations of social media is that it mitigates against context and nuance, so it is not always an adequate medium to communicate one's ideas. Also, while the instant nature of social media is useful it is limited in a situation li...
Tommy Sheppard
03 September 2019
Tommys Blog
Media
Under the new Prime Minister, the UK’s headlong dash towards the No Deal Brexit cliff edge has accelerated. Johnson makes demands he knows the European Union cannot accept. He demands the removal of the Backstop. The Backstop was designed to protect the Good Friday Agreement and thus peace in Northern Ireland and is, let’s not forget, an international treaty which is overwhelmingly supported by th...
Tommy Sheppard
26 August 2019
Tommys Blog
Media
And so the parliamentary summer recess draws to a close. This week Westminster opposition parties meet to plan their autumn attack. The week after, battle commences in the palace by the Thames. The parliament and the premier, each with a death wish on each other. The question: who will get the killer blow in first?What is clear is that a General Election is coming. Either the government will colla...