Welcome to my e-newsletter. Inside you'll find information about my work during September 2020
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Tommy Sheppard MP Newsletter
Another month has passed and I know that over six months into the pandemic a lot of people are feeling it even more - financially, emotionally and socially. Cases of Covid-19 are on the rise again in Scotland so it is as important as ever to keep following the guidelines to keep ourselves and our loved ones safe.
As a reminder, 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]) . And while my office remains closed to the public, you can still contact me and the team on 0131 661 8023 or by emailing [email protected]
Parliament returned at the start of September and after six months of contributing virtually, I returned to London. While parliament has offered some aspects of virtual participation, this has been limited. You can ask questions but not take part in debates. This is something I've raised a number of times at Business Questions, along with the need for us to have remote voting - including at a specific debate on proxy voting which you can watch ** here ([link removed])
. There is no reason that MPs cannot work fully from home and I'll keep pushing for it.
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Over three million people across the UK have not been eligible for either the job retention or self-employment schemes. I raised three specific constituents who missed out on self-employment support during a debate earlier in the month and you can watch it above.
At the end of October, the furlough scheme comes to an end. The SNP and other opposition parties have been pressing for it to continue to save thousands of jobs. Last week Rishi Sunak finally relented and announced a follow-up. Initially I thought this might be good news but it wasn't to be. I wrote to the Chancellor urging him to think again and have written ** a blog piece outlining my concerns ([link removed])
There can be no doubt that the Covid-19 pandemic, and the restrictions caused by it, are having a significant impact on the city's tourism sector - and the hospitality industry that also relies on tourism. There was a back bench debate this month on tourism and Covid-19 during which I called for more specific support for the sector. I was clear that businesses who are having their operations restricted by public policy need to be supported by the public purse. Watch ** here ([link removed])
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The Internal Market Bill has been making its way through the House of Commons during September. There are a number of aspects of the Bill that are deeply troubling. The fact that we have a government explicitly saying it will break international law should worry us all.
And not only is this about breaking international law - there can be no doubt that this Bill marks the biggest assault on devolution since the Scottish Parliament reconvened. As I said in my recent ** Edinburgh Evening News column ([link removed])
, “Government ministers claim no specific powers are being removed from Holyrood but that misses the point. You don’t need to take away a power if you can neuter it by qualifying or overturning the decisions the Scottish Parliament might use that power to make.”
And Clause 46 of the Bill specifically gives Westminster the power to make financial provision in a whole range of devolved areas such as health, education and transport. I spoke in the Committee Stage debate raising my concerns and you can watch it above. My colleagues and I have opposed this Bill at every stage but it passed its third reading and is now in the Lords.
My colleagues in the Scottish Parliament have made it clear that they will refuse consent to this Bill and if it is executed it will be against the will of the elected parliament of Scotland. As each day passes, it becomes ever clearer that the people of Scotland deserve better than this; they deserve the right to choose a better direction and ultimately, to determine their own future as they see fit.
This month I introduced my first Private Members' Bill in the form of a Ten Minute Rule Motion on Problem Drug Use. While such motions have little chance of becoming law unless the government decide to give them time, they help to bring attention to an issue. Those of you who've been reading my newsletter for a while will know that I have been campaigning for a change in our drug laws for a long time. The Bill I introduced last week sought immediate, practical changes designed to help problem drug users. The measures the Bill would introduce are based on the recommendations of the ** Scottish Affairs Inquiry ([link removed])
I was part of last year and that the UK government rejected earlier in the month.
You can watch my speech below and read a short article I wrote following the Bill's introduction ** here ([link removed])
. I was pleased to have cross-party support for the Bill and will continue to pursue this in the months ahead.
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I finished the month with a question at PMQs. I table to ask a Prime Minister’s Question almost every week but it’s rare to have your name pulled out of the hat - I reckon I get about one question a year. But I'm afraid even when I get a question it's rare I get an answer. This time it was vacuous evasion from the bumbler-in-chief as he avoided my straightforward yes or no question. Watch it above.
My constituency work has obviously had to change significantly since March. My entire team are working tirelessly at home and I thank them for this. We continue to see a very high volume of work so please be patient as my team and I need to prioritise. We will get back to you though it may take a little longer than we'd like. I am also running virtual surgeries so if you need my help, I'm doing all I can to be available. It might be a while before the office is back open but please don't wait to seek my help if you need it.
I'm still meeting constituency organisations either remotely or in a socially distanced manner as appropriate and there's some information about a selection of those from this month below.
Huge thanks to Billie (and Syd) for showing me round the wonderful Zero Waste Hub - practical action to achieve zero carbon. Get involved at ** [link removed] ([link removed])
It was good to catch up with Andrew and the team at ** [link removed] ([link removed])
and see how one of Edinburgh’s best eateries is coping with Covid-19.
Thanks to the team at Edinburgh Food Social for updating me on what's been going on for them. They've been doing fantastic work throughout the pandemic and have provided four apprenticeships for young folk in the local community. Looking forward to working together on a range of issues in the months ahead.
There are far too many Airbnb type short-term lets in Edinburgh East, causing problems for neighbours & stopping homes from being lived in by families. I welcome the Scottish government's consultation on new powers to curb them. Make sure you have your say: ** [link removed] ([link removed])
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Tommy Sheppard MP . 94 Portobello High Street . Edinburgh, EH15 1AN . United Kingdom
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