News & Articles

Some published articles and blog posts from Tommy Sheppard MP

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Media Articles, Radio, TV

Stop No Deal

tommy-speaking

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 the people of both Northern Ireland and the Republic.

The EU has repeatedly ruled out changes to the Backstop so it is clear that Johnson is deliberately asking for the impossible while gearing up to blame No Deal on Merkel and Macron. In doing so, he is gambling with all our futures. The warnings of the economic and social effects of No Deal are clear.

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Boris Johnson set to be accountable to MPs for four of 82 days as PM

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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 other cross party MPS, in this legal action and in truth the unanimous decision was even better than we hoped for. The government will appeal but for now it stands charged of breaking the law.

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In the coming election we must tackle Unionist myths

Conference-Spring-19

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 collapse parliament and head for the polls, or parliament will collapse the government and do the same. Will it be October or will the Tories drag a deal from somewhere and crawl through the winter in the hope of leaving the Brexit Party behind?

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It's better to be led by the left while we're in UK

Conference-Spring-19

Dearie me, what’s going on in the People’s Party? First, shadow chancellor John McDonnell states that a Westminster Labour government wouldn’t block a request from the Scottish Parliament to hold an independence referendum. He says it twice just in case anyone thinks the first time was a mistake. And this week Jeremy Corbyn says it again to be sure.

Now, in one sense, it’s an unremarkable statement. But strangely it seems to have caused apoplectic rage in Labour’s Scottish ranks. This summer’s red-on-red action marks a further step in the journey to irrelevance by this once great party.

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Why criticism of Edinburgh festival must be taken seriously this time

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As I write we pass the halfway point on the most sodden Edinburgh festival in many years. And the usual controversies rage. For many locals there’s an increasing feeling that the festival is something done to Edinburgh rather than for it.

There are many parts of this city where the balance sheet of festival pros and cons is negative. Now there have always been curmudgeons annoyed by the impossible enthusiasm and exuberance of the bright young things staging their annual artistic invasion. But this is a different criticism. This is a claim that the organisation of the festivals contribute to a structural inequality taking wealth from the city’s masses and depositing it into the hands of rich producers from elsewhere.

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

Conference-Spring-19

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

EU

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

resistance

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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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

ballot-box

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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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?

ballot-box

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
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
Media
Tommys Blog
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
Media
Tommys Blog
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...
Tommy Sheppard
19 August 2019
Media
Tommys Blog
Dearie me, what’s going on in the People’s Party? First, shadow chancellor John McDonnell states that a Westminster Labour government wouldn’t block a request from the Scottish Parliament to hold an independence referendum. He says it twice just in case anyone thinks the first time was a mistake. And this week Jeremy Corbyn says it again to be sure.Now, in one sense, it’s an unremarkable statement...