News & Articles

Some published articles and blog posts from Tommy Sheppard MP
Tommy thoughts and political views.

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

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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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EU Withdrawal Bill Update - 15th June 2018

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Buckle up folks – here comes a bumper blog as this week saw the return of the EU Withdrawal Bill after its time in the Lords. Or, more accurately, we were back voting on the EU Withdrawal Bill given there was precious little time for any actual debate. Over two days we were supposed to debate and vote on 20 different changes to the Bill that the Lords had put forward.

You’ll likely have seen and heard that the SNP group walked out of PMQs on Wednesday after the Prime Minister failed to answer questions from our leader Ian Blackford on the constitutional implications of the UK government ignoring the will of the Scottish Parliament.  To be clear about what happened, Ian Blackford moved that the House meet in private – one of the few archaic processes available to us to express our discontent by ensuring an immediate vote. He was perfectly entitled to do so. The Speaker decided not to allow a vote immediately but instead to have the vote after PMQs.

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It's time to talk about the monarchy

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Okay I know that it’s probably not the best time to try to start a discussion about the monarchy. With a popular prince wedding his celebrity sweetheart in a lavish event resplendent in the glitz and glamour of Hollywood, it might be best for dissidents like myself to keep our republican heads below the parapet.

Then again, with the nation’s attention focused on the royals because of the wedding, this might be just the time to ask how long we can go on like this.

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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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We Need to Talk about Drugs Policy

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We need to change the law on drugs. In fairness, that’s always been my view. But until now I’ve done little about it as an MP. Why? Partly because there’s always been something I’ve felt was a greater priority – and partly because I know well how views can be distorted and used against people in public life.

But that changes now. Three different events over the past few weeks have made me realise that I and others need to make this a priority.

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Donations to political parties in Northern Ireland - Cabinet Questions

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I asked the Minister if the government would require the Electoral Commission to disclose donations for parties in Northern Ireland from before 2015. This follows allegations of dark money from the Constitutional Research Council, which is linked to the Scottish Tories, to the DUP. As usual, no straight answer.

 

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Save a Life for Scotland

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Recently I visited the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh where I met the inspiring Resuscitation Research Group who are developing innovative approaches to improving the outcomes for out-of-hospital cardiac arrests.

The group told me that every year in Scotland more than three and a half thousand people suffer a cardiac arrest, and unfortunately survival rates are very low at just one in twenty.

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Northern Ireland Questions - Irish Border

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The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland is unable to answer my question on the Irish Border. Legitimate questions deserve proper answers not the same old Tory rhetoric.

 

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Unpaid Trial Work Periods Private Member's Bill

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I caught up with my colleague Stewart McDonald MP about his Private Member's Bill on to ending unpaid trial periods for workers.

 

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Refugee Family Reunification Private Member's Bill

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I caught up with my colleague Angus MacNeil, MP for Na h-Eileanan an Iar, ahead of his Private Member's Bill on Refugee Family Reunification. 

 

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Point of Order - UK Visas and Immigration

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I raised a point of order in the House as, 4 months on, I’ve not received a response to my letter to the Home Office. My caseworkers have had, and still have, significant difficulties getting through to the MP support line at UK Visas and Immigration to get answers for constituents.

Hopefully I’ll now receive a reply.

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Situation in Afrin and the FCO response on Erdogan

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I pressed the UK Government on the situation in Afrin. The FCO needs to stand up to Erdogan and defend Kurdish people now under attack in Afrin.

 

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A Vlog from outside the Brexit Rooms

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I visited the Brexit reading rooms. Wasn't allowed to take my phone in so here's my take from outside the building.

 

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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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Cabinet Office question on the right to vote for EU citizens

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The Scottish Government is already giving EU citizens the right to vote in Scottish Parliament elections. At today's Cabinet Office questions I asked the UK Government to extend the right to vote to all those legally living here.

 

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Ban Electronic Shock Collars Campaign

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You may be aware that last week the Scottish Government implemented an effective ban on electronic shock collars for dogs. These are barbaric devices that have no place in the training of dogs. I congratulate Ben Macpherson MSP on his campaign to get this action. However, the Scottish Government have one hand tied behind their back as powers over the sale of such devices is reserved to Westminster.So Deidre Brock and I are taking this campaign to the Tories in Westminster and you can help. We have a paper public petition on the go (I can then present it in the House) – you can sign it in my office and those of Deidre and Ben. You can also pick up copies of it to get your friends, family, colleagues etc to add their names. An online petition has also been launched and you can sign this here. Read more about it in my Evening News column. 

 

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Westminster Hall Debate on Fireworks

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Given the numerous, and pretty serious, incidents in Edinburgh East on Bonfire Night I was very happy to take part in the Westminster Hall debate on an e-petition relating to fireworks. Here's a few clips from the speech.

Fireworks Debate - 29th Jan 18

 

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PRESS RELEASE - SNP TAKE SHOCK COLLAR CAMPAIGN TO TORIES AT WESTMINSTER

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Press Release - Friday 26th January

SNP politicians are calling on the Tory government at Westminster to use its reserved powers to ban the sale of electronic shock collars across the UK.   Leading animal welfare groups united this week to praise the SNP Scottish Government’s decision to use its devolved powers to introduce a “prompt and effective” ban on the use of shock collars and other forms of harmful electronic training devices for dogs.   The British Veterinary Association described the Scottish Government’s announcement as “a real win for animal welfare”.   The move follows a campaign led by Ben Macpherson, the SNP MSP for Edinburgh Northern and Leith, who was jointly calling for the Scottish Government to ban the use of the devices, and crucially for the UK Government to ban the sale of shock collars using powers retained at Westminster.   The campaign’s focus is now firmly on Westminster, with the Tory UK government under growing pressure to use its reserved powers to ban the sale and distribution of electric shock collars and end their use for good.   Ben Macpherson and SNP MPs, Tommy Sheppard and Deidre Brock, have today launched a Westminster public petition calling for the UK Government to “ban the sale of shock collars and other harmful electronic training aids” for dogs. The petition is available to sign at all three of the politicians’ constituency offices, and an online petition will follow shortly.   Commenting SNP MSP, Ben Macpherson, said:   “I’m delighted that the Scottish Government is introducing a prompt and effective ban on the use of electric shock collars and other electronic training devices that can cause pain or distress to dogs - these devices are capable of causing suffering, and fully banning their use in Scotland is absolutely the right thing to do.   “However, this positive action from the Scottish Government isn’t the end of the matter – the power to ban the sale of shock collars lies at Westminster and now it’s time for the UK government to step up and do the right thing. It’s time for the Tories to introduce a UK ban on the sale and distribution of these cruel devices, and also to follow the examples set by Scotland and Wales and ban the use of shock collars in England.   “On the back of yesterday’s good news from the Scottish Government, I will now continue to work with animal welfare organisations and SNP colleagues at Westminster to push the UK Government to play its part and ban the sale of shock collars across the UK.”   Commenting SNP MP, Tommy Sheppard, said:   “I very much welcome the Scottish Government’s ban on the barbaric use of electronic shock collars on dogs and congratulate my colleague Ben Macpherson MSP and fellow campaigners on their success. But responsibility for the sale of such devices lies with the Tories in Westminster so we now need to turn our attention to London. It’s vital they follow the example set by Scotland and Wales and ensure there is an outright ban on the sale and use of such collars across the UK.”   Commenting SNP MP, Deidre Brock, said:   “There’s loads of evidence that positive reinforcement works better than punishment for training - dogs love their tucker and react to rewards. Zapping them with an electric shock is like something from medieval times, let’s end the sale of these devices now. It’s good to see the Scottish Government taking a lead on this - if you’ll pardon the pun - and hopefully the UK Government will do their bit too.” ENDS   Photo: [from left to right] Deidre Brock MP, Ben Macpherson MSP and Tommy Sheppard MP launching Westminster petition, in Leith. https://gallery.mailchimp.com/4fae14f57a18ee08253ffc251/images/8ab8d564-4db3-466b-9bf0-cd825f16b94c.jpg   Notes:   Commenting Harry Huyton, Director of OneKind, said: “Electric shock collars cause pain, are unnecessary, and have already been banned in Wales. I welcome Ben Macpherson’s efforts to get these cruel devices banned here in Scotland and across the UK, and urge anyone who cares about dog welfare to sign his petition. The vast majority of dog trainers agree that positive, reward-based techniques are the way forward, not the archaic administration of pain to force a dog to submit to the will of the owner.”   Dee McIntosh, Director of Communications and External Affairs at Battersea Dogs & Cats Home, said: “Battersea is very pleased to hear that the Scottish Government has decided to ban electric shock collars. Battersea has long called for these brutal training devices to be prohibited, as it is never acceptable to apply electric shocks to an animal. We believe positive reinforcement techniques, such as reward-based training, are far more effective at changing a dog's behaviour without inflicting unnecessary pain. We are greatly encouraged by the Scottish Government’s decision, which will mirror the ban already in place in Wales, and urge the UK Government to follow their example.”  

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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 ...