I caught up with my colleague Stewart McDonald MP about his Private Member's Bill on to ending unpaid trial periods for workers.
Tommy thoughts and political views.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Here's my speech at the Council of Europe urgent debate on Palestine. Trump's recent actions have made America's role as a mediator untenable. It now falls to Europe to step up to find a solution for Israel and Palestine.
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.”
Photo: [from left to right] Deidre Brock MP, Ben Macpherson MSP and Tommy Sheppard MP launching Westminster petition, in Leith.
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.”
This week Parliament was back debating the EU Withdrawal Bill as it entered the Report stage in the House of Commons. Before I update you on those debates, I want to let you know about a report the Scottish Government have published.
On Monday the Scottish Government released its second paper on the potential implications of Brexit on Scotland and the options available to us. Scotland’s Place in Europe: People, Jobs and Investment outlines that leaving the EU could result in a hit to GDP of up to 8.5%, equivalent to a loss of £2,300 per year for each person in Scotland. Scotland needs continued migration from the EU (each additional EU citizen working in Scotland currently contributes an average of £10,400 in tax revenue) and, ultimately, Scotland and the UK need to stay inside the Single Market and Customs Union to protect Scotland’s interests. Do take a read if you can find the time – it’s a document that brings some much needed evidence and facts to the debate.
Well we finally have it. The coalition were defeated in the House of Commons last night. Despite their attempts to cajole and bully their backbenchers, 11 Tories rebelled and Amendment 7 passed by just 4 votes. And while Ministers are now jumping to say that it isn’t significant, that it’s only one vote and that Brexit is on track their faces told a very different story in the Chamber.
This is important. Amendment 7 means that parliament will need to have a meaningful vote on any Brexit deal. And the fact it passed shows that there are Conservative MPs who are willing to break party lines for the greater good. That’s a positive for the longer term - if this Bill doesn’t come back at report stage with real and meaningful amendments on a number of the key issues, the rebels may well come back.
It’s difficult to know where to start on last week’s Brexit developments. On Monday the Prime Minister was left scrabbling around after the DUP flexed their muscles and refused to agree the deal with the EU that would enable to them to move on to Phase 2 of negotiations.
By the end of the week the deal was done and a joint statement was issued from the UK Government and negotiators from the European Union (read it in full here). I don’t understand why the Brexiteers seem so relaxed following this. I suspect they know something we don’t as on the face of it, you’d think they wouldn’t be keen.
I used my Evening News column this month to talk about fireworks following the extreme antisocial behaviour on bonfire night. I've also written to the Minister asking for the UK Government to toughen up licensing laws. And if they aren't willing to do that, devolve power over fireworks to the Scottish Parliament so they can act. Read the full article here.
The EU Withdrawal Bill entered its committee stage this month in the House of Commons. As it is a constitutional bill it is considered by a committee of the whole house – in other words all MPs consider it in the main chamber. While hundreds of amendments were tabled, only a few are selected for a vote each day. There will be eight days of debate in total, three of which took place in November.
On Day 3 I called for the UK Government to think again on the European Charter of Fundamental Rights. Watch my full speech here. Frustratingly the DUP are earning their keep and ensuring the Tory Government haven't been defeated on any votes as yet. Not helped by the Labour Party abstaining on several issues.
The Scottish Affairs Select Committee report on the devolution of powers following Brexit was published last weekend. This report was approved by all parties on the committee (including the Tories) and raised serious concerns about the impact of the EU Withdrawal Bill on Scotland’s devolution settlement. It called for the UK Government to take urgent action to improve the Bill and provide clarity about the implications of their legislation for Scotland. You can read the full report here.
I’ll be speaking again on Monday on the effects on the Bill on devolution.
So the EU Withdrawal Bill was back in the Commons for Day 3 of the committee stage this week and, as promised, I’m writing to update you on what happened.
Before I talk about the Bill itself, you might be interested in the events of Monday’s Ways and Means debate. Ways and Means is a traditional term for taxes or other charges levied on the public in order to fund Government spending. And while not directly linked to the EU Withdrawal Bill, Brexit transcends everything. In an alternative attempt to get the UK to consider staying in the single market with access to the customs union the Labour MP for Edinburgh South, Ian Murray, had tabled an amendment that was selected for a vote.
I know how difficult it can be to not only keep up with what is happening as Brexit proceeds, but to understand the antiquated political systems that make up the UK parliament. So I will be sharing regular updates as the Bill makes its way through parliament.
As you may be aware, the Bill entered its committee stage this week in the House of Commons. That means MPs debate specific aspects of the Bill and can consider amendments that have been brought forward. While hundreds of amendments were tabled, only a few were selected for a vote.
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.
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.
Long before I stood for election I opposed fracking and I’ve been very pleased to be able to coordinate opposition over the past couple of years.
So you’ll not be surprised to hear that I am delighted by the announcement that has just been made by Paul Wheelhouse, Minister for Business, Innovation & Energy, in the Scottish Parliament.
Yesterday I got back from a holiday – the only time of the year where I switch off from the world. I turned on my phone to see with horror what was happening in #Catalonia.
The actions of the Spanish authorities were shocking. Images beamed around the world of police violence against young and old alike who simply wanted to cast a democratic vote. I’m in awe of the voters who remained peaceful and dignified throughout. The image of a Catalan policeman in tears as he protected their rights will stay with me for a long time.
Time is running out for many of Edinburgh's small businesses. Today I've written to the Chancellor asking for additional emergency assistance for our hospitality sector through the COVID-19 epidemic.