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Tommy Sheppard MP Newsletter
The world has changed completely since my last newsletter. While we knew about Coronavirus two months ago I could not have predicted where we'd be now. This update will focus on the pandemic. I'm letting you know that so that if you are trying to avoid the news and are giving your mind a break from it, you might want to put this email to one side for now.
Before going any further I want to offer my sincerest condolences to the dozens of families in this constituency who have lost someone during this pandemic. Losing a loved one is always traumatic. Losing someone at a time when you cannot seek the usual comfort from friends and family and when funerals are so limited is almost unimaginable.
And the biggest thank you to our key workers. Whether you are working in the NHS, our schools, the social care sector, keeping council services going or keeping us fed and watered you have my gratitude. I know that it is hard, and getting harder, to follow the government advice to stay indoors – especially for those who have no access to a garden. But it does seem like it’s making a difference.
The best place to get the most up to date advice remains the government and council websites:
Scottish Government: www.gov.scot/coronavirus-covid-19/ ([link removed])
UK Government: www.gov.uk/coronavirus ([link removed])
Edinburgh Council: [link removed]
You can also find a list of further helplines including those for parents, older people and those concerned about their mental health on my website ([link removed]) .
My constituency office closed to the public in the middle of March and my staff have been working from home since the start of the lockdown. They have been working incredibly hard and I want to thank them for that. The office has been at its busiest than at any point in the past 5 years. To give an indication - in the first four weeks of lockdown, we logged nearly a thousand cases. That's also why there wasn't a monthly newsletter at the end of March - all efforts were focused on responding to constituents.
We're getting onto a more even keel now and we are absolutely here to help if you need it. You can email me on [email protected] or call 0131 661 8023 (you may need to leave a message and someone will call you back). My usual surgeries are obviously cancelled but I am setting up virtual ones - keep an eye on my social media channels for details.
In dealing with individual enquiries it has become clear that there are some serious issues with the schemes the government have put in place. I have written to the Chancellor eight times in the past month about various aspects of the ** Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme ([link removed])
, the ** Self-employment Income Support Scheme ([link removed])
and the ** Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme ([link removed])
. I have yet to receive a single response. For those who have been self-employed for less than a year, who moved job during March, who are seasonal workers, who haven't been able to access a much needed loan or are having to wait until June to get any money or who fall through any other of the gaps in the system this isn't good enough. The UK government said it wouldn't leave anyone behind - my colleagues and I will keep pursuing them to make this a reality.
Edinburgh is clearly going to have its own unique challenges as we both manage and recover from the pandemic. The summer festivals have been cancelled, the tourism industry is on hold and so is the pub and hospitality industry. We have to cope not just with the health and social impacts of this but with the economic impact too. As an example, pubs are a vital part of Edinburgh's culture and economy. It's right that pubs remain closed to protect staff and customers during COVID-19 but the big pub company landlords need to give their tenants a rent holiday to make sure that our best loved locals get through this.
And, of course, tourism works both ways. Many family holidays are being cancelled because of COVID-19. Most people should be entitled to a refund, but sadly not everybody is getting one. Earlier in the month I wrote to the UK Government demanding urgent action to safeguard consumers & support struggling travel firms during this crisis. Read my letter below:
As you'll probably know, Parliament returned last week. It's been done in a way that allows 50 MPs to be in the chamber while up to 120 can be online virtually. It's early days of this but I am not convinced the hybrid nature of it is the most effective. And this is really important - we need to be able to hold our government to account as much as ever. You can read my full thoughts on this in my latest ** Edinburgh Evening News Column ([link removed])
We are all getting used to doing things differently. Parliament is mostly closed and the usual schedule of meetings about everything under the sun are not happening. However, many of these discussions are going online and I am spending some time taking part in debates on many national and international aspects of the current global pandemic.
Inevitably, the longer we are in lockdown, the more people want to know how we will start to get out of it. Let's be realistic here - we are likely to be facing a degree of social distancing for the foreseeable future. I think the Scottish government have been very honest about that and they have also started an open discussion about how the future might look. I would urge you to read their framework document ** here ([link removed])
and take part in that discussion.
I hope the above has given you a useful flavour of the work I have been doing over the past few weeks. And it is just a snapshot. My team and I will continue to work as hard as we can to support the people of Edinburgh East through this crisis. Do get in touch if you think I can help you, and thanks in advance for your patience if you have to wait a little bit longer than usual for a response. We will get back to you.
STAY UP TO DATE
Make sure you take a visit to my ** Website ([link removed])
to keep up to date with all my work for you in both Edinburgh East and Westminster.
You can also find me on ** Facebook ([link removed])
and follow me on ** T ([link removed])
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or ** Instagram ([link removed])
Our mailing address is:
94 Portobello High Street, Edinburgh, EH15 1AN
0131 661 8023
Up to date information about regular surgeries can be found ** here ([link removed])
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Tommy Sheppard MP . 94 Portobello High Street . Edinburgh, EH15 1AN . United Kingdom
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