News & Articles

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

The week ahead

The week ahead

It’s just before 10am on Monday morning and according to the Virgin Trains website I’m hurtling towards London at 103mph. At this rate we might even be on time. It's been a while since I wrote a blog so thought I'd give you an insight into my week ahead. 

It’s looking like a busy week in the political equivalent of Hogwarts. As soon as I get in I’ve got a meeting with the Parliamentary Commissioner of Standards to discuss her review of the Code of Conduct which MPs need to adhere to. I’m my party’s representative on the Standards Committee which is overseeing the review and I’m keen to press her to tighten up in a number of areas.

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The UK voted for Brexit - so where do we go from here?

The UK voted for Brexit - so where do we go from here?

I write this barely 60 hours after finding out that the people of the UK had voted to leave the European Union – and in truth I’m still trying to get my head around it.

Shock was the first feeling. Sure, I knew that a leave vote was always on the cards, but somehow I never really believed it could happen. I thought in the final stages that enough had been done to save the day; that people would reject the narrow minded intolerance on which this most reactionary of campaigns was based. But it turned out that I was living in a Caledonian bubble and that England, outside of its metropolis, is indeed another country.

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Let's change the terrain and target open minds

Let's change the terrain and target open minds

Four elections and a referendum: It’s been a helluva five years. With the new SNP Government now sworn in the party can at last move off a permanent war footing. It’s time to take stock, re-group and plan.

And what a change in the political terrain has taken place. The Labour heartlands are no more. Once the party of the working class, Labour is now only capable of clinging on to constituencies that contain a substantial liberal middle class committed to voting tactically to keep the SNP out. And the SNP, although still able to straddle the class divide in its appeal, is now without doubt the political representative of central Scotland’s working class communities.

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SNP win Scottish Election with Highest Ever Vote in Edinburgh

SNP win Scottish Election with Highest Ever Vote in Edinburgh

No matter how you look at it, the 2016 Scottish Parliamentary election was a convincing win for the SNP. The party was seeking an historic third term after nine years in charge at Holyrood. It got it. With knobs on. More votes than ever before in a Scottish parliamentary election and a bigger share of the vote too.

What’s not to like? Well, I guess the fact that even though it was its best ever performance the party still lost a few seats and narrowly missed out on an overall majority. That, though, is how the system is designed. It is almost impossible to get more than 50% of the seats unless you get more than 50% of the votes. Almost, but not quite.  Last time round in 2011 the SNP did just that, but in retrospect it’s pretty obvious that was something of a fluke, involving winning some unlikely seats by a whisker in three or four way marginal contests. Nowhere illustrates this better than what happened in Edinburgh.

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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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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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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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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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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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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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Made Some History - Not in a Good Way

Made Some History - Not in a Good Way

Just made the 6pm train to Edinburgh after a mad dash from the House of Commons. The debate of the day was EVEL (English votes for English laws). This was the third – or was it the fourth – attempt by the government to force through this shoddy procedure. And they won – predictably.

History was made today - and not in a good way. For the first time ever the rights of Scottish MPs have been curtailed in the Westminster Parliament. There will now be two classes of MP – those that can vote on everything and those that can’t.

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Reflections on Annual Conference

Reflections on Annual Conference

I'm writing this on the train back to Edinburgh from the SNP conference in Aberdeen. We have just had our biggest conference ever - indeed probably the biggest political conference in Scottish history.

And by any measure it was a huge success. The SNP is a big organisation now - over 114,000 members - and many people have speculated that size would bring division. Indeed, there are some sections of the press so desperate for an "SNP split" story that they will make one up. Yet the party seems more united and focussed than ever.

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Reflections on Assisted Dying Bill Debate

 

After a weekend’s rest and refection I’d like to record some thoughts about the debate on the assisted dying bill which has been a concern for many, many people. I received a lot of letters from people in Edinburgh East asking me to either oppose or support the bill. There were passionate views held on both sides with the majority favouring a change in the law.

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Play From Gaza

Play From Gaza

 

This was a genuine fringe first: a play from Gaza in the heart of Edinburgh despite all of the obstacles in the way.

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Labour have left the building...

Labour have left the building...

It’s been quite a week to finish the first term of the new parliament. On Monday the Tories’ welfare bill passed its second reading by 308 votes to 124, the majority exactly equal to the number of Labour MPs who didn’t vote against it.  This is an odious package of measures. Choice highlights include reducing the work allowance people on benefit can claim so that their payments are reduced, removing housing benefit for anyone under 25, and the two child policy which will deny benefits to larger families

The bill also reduces the benefits cap which any one household can claim to £380 a week. Not many people get this level of benefits and where they do you can bet most of it will be to cover the cost of high private rents. The effect of the cap will be to force people to move into poorer areas where rents are lower, cleansing nice middle class Tory areas of claimants and creating ghettos of poverty where the chances of getting a decent job are even more remote than before. This is a restructuring of welfare to achieve social engineering on a grand scale.

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My take on the budget

My take on the budget

I can’t be the only one who finds the Conservatives attempts to portray themselves as the workers’ party risible and ridiculous. I’ve sat opposite them in the House of Commons for the last two months and I can safely say I’ve never seen so much wealth and privilege in the one place. The only working people many of the Tories know are the ones who work for them.

It’s all a PR exercise and like any other brand you can’t sell it if it’s crap. So let’s take a look at what the workers’ party has planned. This week’s budget is nothing other than an all-out attack on working people. Millions of police officers, nurses, teachers and local government workers throughout the UK will have their pay pegged to a one percent increase for the next four years. On top of wage freezes and paltry rises over the past five years, this will drive down the standard of living for many, many people.

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Tommy's Blog Articles

Tommy Sheppard
25 April 2019
Tommy's Blog
Media
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 l...
Tommy Sheppard
29 March 2019
Tommy's Blog
Media
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...
Tommy Sheppard
28 March 2019
Tommy's Blog
Media
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 governmen...
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?