News & Articles

Some published articles and blog posts from Tommy Sheppard MP

Subcategories from this category:

Media Articles, Radio, TV

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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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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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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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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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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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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Tories won’t grab our powers without a fight

Stronger-for-Scotland

Brexit rumbles on. Last week the SNP walked out of parliament in protest at not being allowed to discuss House of Lords amendments that will seriously affect how we are governed. If we can’t have our say inside the chamber we’ll make our arguments outside.

Meanwhile the UK government say we’re scaremongering. What power grab say the Tories? They claim that the Scottish government will get more powers after Brexit and not a single power it currently has will be removed. Is this true? Let’s see.

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Insults won't change my mind about the monarchy

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I want to talk about the monarchy. Although not my intention this may upset some people. But before you reach for the keyboard to condemn me, please at least hear me out.

I’m a republican. Have been all my adult life. I don’t demand that other people be republicans but I do ask that we have a civilised exchange of opinion.

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SNP's structure could make the difference for #ScotRef

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This is a piece about the SNP’s constitutional review. Exciting, huh? Well, maybe not, but important all the same.

I know – at least I hope – no-one joins a political party to debate its internal structure. And set against debates on Indy, Brexit and the World War III this is unlikely to get anyone’s political juices flowing. People are motivated by ideas and feelings, powerful emotions that propel us to action for change.

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The Great Return March Protests

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Since the 30th March Palestinians in Gaza have been peacefully protesting. They will continue until the 15th May - the 70th anniversary of the Nakba, the name Palestinians have for the events that displaced them from their homes when Israel was created.

The protests are billed as the “Great Return March” to make the point that it’s time to leave Gaza and go back to where they came from. But try that and they will be shot. As of April 15th, 35 have already been killed and 1300 injured as Israeli soldiers fire live ammunition into unarmed demonstrators.

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Why I'm not standing for Depute Leader of the SNP

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I’m not standing for depute leader of the SNP.

There are a range of personal factors that have influenced my decision. We are all of us very good at talking about a work life balance but often do little about it. I’m content where that balance is for me at the moment and for now I’ve no desire to alter it. There’s plenty I need to be getting on with on the front bench at Westminster, as a local MP and as part of the wider campaign for independence.

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Forget Brexit, let’s take back control of Scotland

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We are about to start our final year as a full European Union member, but the hapless UK Government still appears split from top to bottom over what life will look like afterwards.

Let’s start with the simplest and most fundamental question – what sort of trading deal should we have with the 27 countries of the EU after we leave? In a common sense world, it wouldn’t be controversial to argue that we should seek the closest arrangement possible with EU. These are, after all, the countries nearest to the UK and those with whom we do the majority of our trade.

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May faces Tory civil war if UK becomes ‘EU colony’

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Well, as years go, 2017 wasn’t the greatest. Globally, the world became a much more precarious place.

Donald Trump got his feet under the Oval Office desk and spent most of the year insulting people almost everywhere. Ramping up international tensions he rattled some pretty big sabres at North Korea. The year finished with Trump firmly taking sides in the Middle East conflict, much to chagrin of pretty much every diplomat in the rest of the world.

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Edinburgh needs to get a grip on its Airbnb craze

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Ever rented out a room in your flat? I have. Many people in Edinburgh have too. The city sees a massive influx during August and without residents offering up spare rooms – or indeed their whole home – there’d simply be nowhere for the festival to live.

But the festival has always been an exception. Worth the inconvenience and congestion because we get the biggest arts event in the world and it’s good for the city’s economy and reputation.

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Time to license fireworks

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All over Scotland last weekend families enjoyed watching the fireworks.  The spectacle of fire and colour brought happiness to many – young and old. The same was true in Edinburgh. All over the city – and especially at Meadowbank – majestic displays thrilled the crowds.

But in a few parts of the city a tiny minority set out to cause havoc and intimidate local people. In a few places in north and east Edinburgh a small number used fireworks and fire not to entertain but to terrify. Local people imprisoned themselves in their homes for fear of going out. Cars were set alight and fireworks thrown at emergency services workers trying to protect the public. We’re lucky there weren’t even more serious injuries.

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Fracking ban makes me proud of SNP government

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I have never been prouder of our SNP Scottish Government than I was last Tuesday when the Energy Minister, Paul Wheelhouse MSP, made a statement to parliament on fracking. He was responding to a huge public consultation on the issue and he made it crystal clear that fracking would not be part of the energy mix in Scotland.

Not only was this the right decision but the manner in which the government arrived at its position was an exemplar in public policy making. Campaigners, including myself, have been trying to get a ban on fracking for years. But rather than rush into a decision the government has taken the best part of two years to research the evidence, and most importantly, ask the people what they wanted.

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Changing festival dates could be beneficial

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So our capital city is more than half way through hosting the world’s largest arts festival.  As ever amidst this explosion of artistic creativity there are a few controversies. Should workers in fringe venues be paid the living wage? Were the owners of St Andrew Square right to close it to the fringe and Jazz & Blues festivals? And the debate that intrigues me most: dates.

The Edinburgh festival that most people think of in August is in fact a bunch of separate festivals. The biggest by far is the Fringe. The biggest funded is the International Festival. Then there’s the Tattoo, the Book Festival and the Art Festival. The dates of all of these overlap considerably.

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It's Brexit Again

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OK, sorry about this, but it’s Brexit again this month. Don’t blame me – I voted remain.

Remember the Great Repeal Bill David Davis promised last year. Well, it’s arrived, Except it’s now called the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill. I’ve no idea why withdrawal is in brackets, maybe it’s not going to happen. It’s not that great either – just nineteen clauses, half of which are legalistic gobbledygook.

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Tommy's Blog Articles

Tommy Sheppard
28 February 2019
Tommy's Blog
Media

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.

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...