Welcome to my e-newsletter. Inside you'll find information about my work during July 2019
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Tommy Sheppard MP Newsletter
Well, where to start? With less than 100 days to go until the next Brexit deadline, Parliament has broken up for a 5 week recess and we have a new Prime Minister and Cabinet who seem hellbent on taking us out of the EU and are preparing to do so without a deal. From the moment Theresa May decided to stand down it was almost inevitable Boris Johnson would become the new PM but that didn't make it any less depressing. Prior to his announcement I made some predictions in my monthly Edinburgh Evening News column - you can read it here ([link removed]) .
The new hard-line Tory government seems determined that Scotland should be seen and not heard. At the start of the month I was refused my Freedom of Information Request to receive the results of polling by the Cabinet Office on attitudes towards the strength of the Union. You can only assume they've got something to hide. I've requested a review of the decision and you can read the full story ** here ([link removed])
I had the chance to ask about this at Cabinet Office Questions. I wish ministers could actually answer a question but somewhere in this rambling reply I think he said there weren't any plans to change policy. Which makes it strange that the Cabinet Office is refusing to give me information on recent polling because it relates to the formulation of government policy.
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On the day Boris Johnson became Prime Minister, and before he had announced any of his Cabinet, I had what I thought might be my last chance to question David Mundell as Secretary of State for Scotland. Unlike some of his cabinet colleagues, the Secretary of State lacked the integrity and conviction to resign. Watch the exchange ** here ([link removed])
PM Johnson has appointed a privately educated Tory millionaire businessman to be the new Secretary of State for Scotland. The hard-line brexiter is called Alistair Jack. Who you ask? Indeed. I don't think I'd ever heard him speak before his promotion. I can only assume Johnson was trying to find the Scottish Tory who is most like himself. The Tory party in Scotland just became even more toxic. And to add insult to injury we now have the MP for Worcester as number two in the Scotland Office.
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And so, to Johnson's first statement in the Commons. I really have to question how it has come to this. Shouting vacuous platitudes and waving his arms around - the new PM seems to think if he huffs and puffs enough all the problems will go away. He was also unable to answer my very simple yes or no question (see above). Scotland has a different choice - Johnson is looking like the UK's last Prime Minister.
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"I believe devolution is a step along the way to becoming an independent country. But that's not a decision for politicians - it's for the people of Scotland". You can watch my full speech from a debate on 20 years of devolution above.
In July the official statistics on drug related deaths in Scotland during 2018 were released. 1,187 people died. Many of these deaths were preventable.
As part of the Scottish Affairs Committee I had a whistle stop visit to Frankfurt and Lisbon this month. We visited two of the four drug consumption rooms in Frankfurt. In 1991, before their introduction, 147 people died. Last year it was 22. Drug consumption rooms alone won't solve this problem but I firmly believe it's now time for a serious and sensible debate on reforming our drug laws. It's high time we had policies based on evidence and the powers devolved to the Scottish Parliament.
I was pleased to be able to host the launch of Make Votes Matter's Good Systems Agreement Campaign. This is about politicians agreeing on principles of good voting systems rather than a particular method of proportional representation - so including aspects such as proportionality, being representative, simplicity and accountability. Find out more about the campaign ** here ([link removed])
August is an incredibly busy time in Edinburgh. The Fringe is starting alongside the International Festival and soon to be joined by the Book Festival. I'm proud to be the MP for the majority of Fringe venues, and for the Fringe Society. Last month I joined up with Shona McCarthy, Chief Executive of the Fringe for a meeting with the then Secretary of State at DCMS to discuss continued funding.
But being a city with so many visitors isn't without its challenges. Many of you will know that I have long supported a tourist tax (or transient visitor levy to give it its official name) and I hope we are moving closer to that. I have also been campaigning for regulations on short term letting such as Airbnb. Not to stop those who want to let their flat out for a few weeks during August or have someone lodge in their spare room but for those who are making this into a business and damaging our communities in the process. The Scottish government consultation closed during July and you can read my submission ** here ([link removed])
I was delighted to be at the awards ceremony for Edinburgh University's degree access course. An excellent new initiative designed to help people without traditional school qualifications get into full time study. Congrats to Emily and her course mates.
It was also good to chat to Jenny Hoy and Peter Mathieson about extending the University's outreach work into parts of Edinburgh East.
I met up with Council Leader, Adam McVey, at the Edinburgh Climate Festival in the Meadows this month. I'm proud that our Council is aiming for Edinburgh to become a Zero Carbon City. The festival was a cracking family day out with a very serious aim.
Great to see the new Portobello Bookshop going like a fair during its first week. It was a pleasure to meet the founder, Jack, and pick up some summer reading. There are also some new places to have a drink and/or something to eat. The Portobello Tap has opened on the High Street and I popped in to see the team at The Boathouse on the Prom too. Porty just became an even better place to live/work.
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Tommy Sheppard MP . 94 Portobello High Street . Edinburgh, EH15 1AN . United Kingdom
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