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

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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Pension Equalisation Debate

Pension Equalisation Debate

Today we are debating the important issue of the equalisation of the State Pension age for men and women (thanks to Mhairi Black who secured the debate). The UK Government’s dreadful handling of this change has resulted in profoundly unfair effects for women born between 6 April 1951 and the early 1960s. They now have to contend not just with the equalisation of their retirement age to the new higher age of 66, but also with this happening over a very short period of time.

The injustice here springs from the lack of notice provided to women born in the 50s and early 60s, despite having previously been promised more time to plan and greater tapering provisions. Understandably, many then relied on and factored in these promises for their retirement planning.

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New Year Blog

New Year Blog

Happy New Year to one and all.

I'm on the train heading back to that there London for the start of the new term at the political equivalent of Hogwarts.

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Changes to Women's Pensions

Changes to Women's Pensions

The changes to women's pension have been brought in too quickly, and my colleagues and I in the SNP are supportive of the campaign against the Government’s proposal. My colleague, Eilidh Whiteford MP said back in 2011 that the issue was not only the pace of change, but it was about the context of a lifetime of low pay and inequality faced by many women. I was pleased to see that my colleague, Ian Blackford MP, the SNP’s Pensions spokesperson, was able to secure a debate in Westminster Hall in November and raised this matter with the Government’s Economic Secretary.   It is only right that the Government are held to account over their actions, as it had previously stated in 2011 that they would consider transitional arrangements to ensure that women were not impacted disproportionately from the change. I have seen no evidence of this actually happening and they have been unable to confirm what had been done to protect women born in the 1950s. Although I was unable to do so myself, a number of my colleagues also attended the November debate in Westminster Hall, and if you are interested in some of the details of what they said, you can access Hansard via this link.

My colleagues and I will continue to question the Government on this matter because nobody should face inequality in their retirement plans because of when they were born. Indeed Mhairi Black will be leading a backbench debate in the Main Chamber on January 7th.

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Reflections on Syria Vote

Reflections on Syria Vote

When I was back in the constituency I took a few minutes to reflect on the week in his week in Westminster. You can see it here.  

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Syria Debate

Syria Debate

I wasn't called to speak in Wednesday's debate on whether to engage in air strikes in Syria so I recorded some of what I would have liked to say.

For the most part this has been a sincere debate with people who hold strong and passionate views being prepared to listen to those who hold equally strong but divergent views with respect.

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TTIP

TTIP

My SNP colleagues and I are extremely concerned about many aspects of the proposed TTIP deal. Those at least which have so far come to light - one of the greatest worries about the process has been the severe lack of transparency surrounding the TTIP negotiations. Our greatest concern, however, is any proposal that would expand Investor-State Dispute Settlements procedures - whereby companies can sue governments - and we will oppose any such expansion in the strongest terms. We will likewise oppose any possibility that it will involve opening markets in the service sector which could potentially include public services such as health, social services and higher education and the opening up of public procurement markets. I recently signed Early Day Motions 146 and 677 expressing my concern about TTIP and TiSA respectively. We are working with various trade union bodies (including the STUC) to raise awareness of the impact that TTIP may have on Scotland. We will of course resist any attempt to undermine European standards in the fields of public health, social and employment rights, health and safety and the environment. I also would encourage you to sign up for my colleague Alyn Smith MEP's newsletter where you can get the SNP's view from a European Parliament perspective.

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Military Action in Syria

Following the atrocious attacks in Paris, the UK Government appears to be on the brink of military intervention in Syria. In the absence of either a UN mandate or a coherent political strategy to end the civil war, I am not convinced that either air strikes or ground troops would bring stability to the region. Indeed, it is highly likely to lead to more civilian casualties and trauma. I am committed to a peaceful resolution to the increasing violence in the region.

At the SNP conference in October, a motion opposing UK participation in ongoing military action in Syria was backed unanimously. The motion stated that any airstrikes by the UK would be “militarily irrelevant” when American, Russian, Arabic, Turkish and French forces are already taking place. The motion calls for the UK government to support a renewed diplomatic initiative and recognise that only United Nations sponsored action will have the international consensus needed to bring the conflict and the humanitarian crisis that accompanies it to an end.

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The Scotland Bill

The Scotland Bill

Earlier this evening I spoke in the House of Commons on the third reading of the Scotland Bill. Complex bills can be given several days of debate in the chamber but today, the highly technical and complex Scotland Bill was allowed a total of around six hours. When you take out the time for voting, realistically that only left about four hours to discuss and debate over 200 motions and amendments.

I recognised that many who voted no last year, did so because they are happy with the status quo and wanted to remain in the United Kingdom as it stands.  However, there is another group of people who voted no because they believed what they were told by the leaders of the unionist parties, that a no vote on the 18th September was not a vote for the status quo but was a vote for a new relationship within the union where additional powers would be transferred. Undoubtedly this group were decisive in swinging the No vote.

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Trade Union Bill

Trade Union Bill

I spoke against the undemocratic and draconian Trade Union Bill at its second reading on the 14th of September. I can assure you that my colleagues and I will continue vigorously to oppose this bill at its third reading tomorrow. This action, designed by the Conservative Government, seeks to deprive workers of their basic rights, rights which were hard won over the past 100 years. We will do our utmost to prevent this bill from becoming law.

The Bill threatens the right to pursue industrial disputes by legitimate means and the right to organise and to bargain collectively. We are also opposed to restrictions on Trade Unions using social media and support the usage of safe and secure online voting to maximise participation as well as changes to regulations regarding agency workers. Ultimately the proposed Bill places unreasonable restrictions on the rights of trade unions and their members.

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Tommy's Blog Articles

Tommy Sheppard
31 January 2019
Tommy's Blog

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?

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 ...