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.

Embrace the EU elections and make a stand on Brexit

EU

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

EU

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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Jeremy, It's Not Too Late To Change Your Mind And Offer A Real Alternative To Brexit

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 Open Letter to Jeremy Corbyn MP

Leader of the Labour Party

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Let's regulate televised political debates

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You may remember that before Christmas there was talk of a UK wide TV debate on Brexit. In the end it didn’t happen because Labour and Tory party bosses couldn’t agree on a format. It’s probably just as well. At the time SNP demands to be included fell on deaf ears. It looked as if we might have the rather ridiculous charade of Teresa May and Jeremy Corbyn arguing over what kind of Brexit they wanted, with no-one at all putting the case against - a view which is now probably the majority one across the UK.

But the debacle over that debate has fuelled discussion about how political TV debates should be organised. This week parliament debated a proposal for an independent commission to put this whole business on a statutory footing. This is something I support and whilst we are in something of a Brexit hiatus waiting for the government to lose the vote on its withdrawal agreement, I thought I’d explain why.

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Brexit Update - 11th Dec 18

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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 huddled with her aides and getting the Cabinet together for a phone conference. Within a few minutes it was clear she’d changed her mind. Again.

The vote is postponed. Until when, no-one knows. The PM came to the House of Commons and was frank – the only reason she’s delaying the vote is because she was going to lose. And lose badly. Once again this is all about her trying to hang on to power and sort out her own party rather than doing what’s best for the country.

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Brexit Update

EU

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 Union they have, time and again, put forward compromises that would respect the wishes of the Scottish people, and those of the rest of the United Kingdom.  These have been dismissed out of hand by the UK government.

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Austerity is alive and well after Hammond’s Budget

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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 government to stimulate the economy. More public spending led to more jobs, more earnings and more taxes.  Not here. For eight long years the Tories have applied the opposite approach: use the reduced income as an excuse to slash public spending. This is austerity. And no matter what Hammond and May might like us to believe, it’s still here.

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Let's march towards a new vision for the nation

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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 – we’re gonna need a bigger city.

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September News - Westminster

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It wasn't a surprise that we started the new parliamentary term with an Urgent Question on Brexit. However the answer I received to my question during this session was quite amazing. Raab said that the UK government's ability to consult the Scottish government will be constrained by Article 50 timetable which "is not of our choosing". Really? Who set the withdrawal date in law despite all the opposition parties arguing it would create inflexibility? Watch it here.

There's also a lot of discussion about a "People's Vote" on Europe. This month I used my Edinburgh Evening News column to set out my three tests for another referendum. You can read it here

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Case for more devolution in event of no-deal Brexit

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Going back to Westminster after the summer recess you can almost feel the impending doom in the air. It’s the calm before the storm. Everyone knows something bad is going to happen. Just not what exactly. Like waiting for the ghoul to reveal itself in a horror movie.

And as the dread unfolds the discussion about whether there should be another Brexit referendum will intensify.

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August News - Constituency

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As you may be aware, I love August. I get to sleep in my own bed every night, get out and about in the constituency and take in some of the Fringe highlights. As the MP for around 80% of Fringe venues I do feel I have a role to play in looking at how the city can benefit most from the summer Festivals.  I used my August column in the Edinburgh Evening News to do just that – you can read it here.

I also ran my regular street surgery in the Old Town this month – focussing on the Canongate polling district.  Alongside individual problems and support, I talked with a number of residents about the issues affecting the community, many of which are enhanced by the influx of visitors from short term let concerns to the increase in litter and noise.

If you live in Craigmillar you’ll be well acquainted with the wonderful Green House. I had a great time helping Julie out in the Green House one lunchtime. It's a brilliant community resource - helping folk save money and the environment. If you're able to volunteer for a few hours, donate high quality goods or are looking for some bargains, make sure you pop in and support them!

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Why don’t our schools get the Fringe benefits?

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How’s your festival going? Are you thrilled to bits at the world’s largest arts festival being on your doorstep? Are you overdosing on culture in one of the 200+ festival venues? Or do you spend August grimacing as it takes twice as long to get anywhere and the city centre is taken over by hordes of impossibly enthusiastic young people.

Whatever your view on the summer festivals there’s no doubt that they’re here to stay. So maybe the question we ought to ask is how can we make them work better for the city all year round. We need to get away from the festivals being something that are done to the city, to a place where they are a product of it.

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July News - Constituency

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The benefit of being the MP for Edinburgh's seaside is that when the sun came out, I got to take the team (or at least those who work on a Friday) for a wee post work treat. Nothing better than finishing the week with an in ice-cream on the beach!

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July News - Westminster

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It was yet another busy month in the Palace of Westminster. I started July with a Question to the Prime Minister.  For those who don't know, MPs enter a ballot to be able to ask something at PMQs. I enter every week and it really is just the luck of the draw as to if, and when, you get picked. This month I urged Theresa May to look again at the sale of Fort Kinnaird - it's simply not acceptable that Scottish taxpayers are being cheated out of £167 million from the sale of Crown Estate interests. Watch it here.

David Mundell was back in the hot seat for Scottish Office questions this month where I get to ask questions in my role as the SNP Spokesperson on the Scotland Office. This time I again focused on Brexit. The Chequers Plan completely changes the debate on joint governmental frameworks after we leave the European Union yet the Scottish Secretary confirmed he did not discuss the plan with the Scottish government beforehand. His shameful disregard for devolution continues. Watch it here

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Debate on Strengthening the Union

The UK government tabled a general debate on strengthening the union. You can watch my full speech from the debate here.

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Thoughts on the Growth Commission

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In 2016, Nicola Sturgeon announced that there would be a Growth Commission to explore Scotland’s economy and the potential that might occur after Independence. Andrew Wilson chaired the commission and in May this year they published their final report – you can read it in full here.

There have been many commentaries on the report, from different political persuasions. Below is my contribution – written for the Scottish Left Review in July 2018.

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Time to stop being allies of states that oppress women

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This month in parliament we celebrated the 90th anniversary of all women being allowed the vote with the passing of the 1928 Equal Franchise Act. This built on the Act a decade before which gave some women – those over 30 and either married or property owners – the vote. Every time we mark these historical landmarks I am struck not by how long ago they were, but by how recent.

The 1920s were an age of modernity. The beginning of commercial air travel, radio and television broadcasting. An Avant-garde in literature, art and music was revolutionising culture. New advances in medicine and technology were being celebrated. And yet most women were denied the right to vote by law. It seems like something from the Dark Ages. It’s quite shocking to think that there are many people alive today who were born in these times.

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Should we really be celebrating Westminster's democracy?

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We need to talk about democracy. The UK government recently hosted its first ever “National Democracy Week” – with no sense of irony.

We absolutely should be celebrating the 90th anniversary of the equalisation of voting ages for men and women. Nobody would argue with that.

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Tommy's Blog Articles

Tommy Sheppard
18 July 2019
Tommys Blog
Media

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?

Tommy Sheppard
08 July 2019
Tommys Blog
Media
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 wee...
Tommy Sheppard
25 April 2019
Tommys Blog
Media
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 l...
Tommy Sheppard
29 March 2019
Tommys Blog
Media
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...
Tommy Sheppard
28 March 2019
Media
Tommys Blog
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 governmen...