Born and bred on the north coast of Ireland, Tommy went to Aberdeen University to study medicine in 1977. He graduated in 1982 with a degree in sociology and politics. He set off for London having been elected Vice-President of the NUS, intending to stay for a year. He stayed for eleven, working in PR and campaigns along the way. He was elected to Hackney Council in 1986 and became deputy leader four years later.
In 1993, he returned to Scotland and was appointed Assistant General Secretary of the Labour Party under John Smith. Three years later Tony Blair asked him to leave. He started the Stand Comedy Club as a hobby in 1995 and in 1998 turned it into a business. It is now a successful institution with venues in Edinburgh, Glasgow and Newcastle. It is also one of the largest venues on the Edinburgh Fringe, the world’s largest arts festival.
Tommy was very active in the Yes campaign in the two years running up to the referendum. He ran the local group in south Edinburgh and helped nationally too – he organised the Night for Scotland event at the Usher hall four days before the vote.
In May 2015, he was elected as the Member of Parliament for Edinburgh East with a majority of 9,106 and 49.2% of the vote. Tommy was appointed as the SNP’s spokesperson on the Cabinet Office.
In June 2017, there was a snap general election. Tommy was returned at the Member of Parliament for Edinburgh East. And then in December 2019, Tommy faced his third general election in five years. He was re-elected with a majority of 10,417. In this parliamentary term he first served as the SNP Shadow Leader of the House and now holds the post of Spokesperson on Constitutional Affairs.
His particular political interests include human rights, Palestine, anti-poverty, drug law reform, austerity and equality issues.