Welcome to my e-newsletter. Inside you'll find information about my work during March 2021
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Tommy Sheppard MP Newsletter
Another month has passed, and parliament is now on recess. It's an odd recess - usually the Easter break is a mixture of having a few days off to spend with family and catching up with lots of constituency visits. Currently most of that isn't possible, though my team and I are still working hard to help constituents who need my support.
The Scottish parliament is now in a longer than normal recess, ahead of the Scottish general election on 6th May. If you haven't registered to vote, you still have time to do so and, remember, if you're a citizen of another country live in Scotland with permission to enter or stay in the UK (including EU nationals), you can vote in this election (find out more here ([link removed]) ). Given the Covid-19 restrictions, you may also wish to consider registering for a postal vote. The deadline for this is the 6th April so don't delay - you can find out more here ([link removed]) .
As ever, the best place to get the most up to date advice about Covid-19 remains the government and council websites:
Scottish Government: www.gov.scot/coronavirus-covid-19/ ([link removed])
Support and funding for businesses: [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 myself and the team on 0131 661 8023, or by emailing [email protected] (mailto:[email protected]) .
Regular readers will know that I have been campaigning for the reform of our drug laws for the past few years. This month I published my Private Members' Bill on this topic. Sadly, this isn't going to become law unless the UK government has a significant change of heart but, I hope that by publishing the Bill, it shows that change is possible and really isn't that difficult. I'll keep pressuring the UK government on this. You can read the Bill ** here ([link removed])
I also wrote a piece on the drugs crisis, and what can be done to fix it, for the Progressive Policy Research Group's Yellow Papers Project. You can read it ** here ([link removed])
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This month the SNP had what is called an "Opposition Day Debate", which basically means that the SNP get to choose the topic of debate in the House. I was very pleased to be able to lead for the party on a debate on Scotland's constitutional future. Watch my speech above.
I attended a meeting of the All Party Parliamentary Group on the night time economy, where we heard from a really interesting bunch of people, including DJ Danny Whitehead and radio presenter Amy Lame, discussing the devastating effect Covid-19 has had on the industry and those that work in it. I'll continue to help support the campaign to ** #savenightlife ([link removed])
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March saw the Chancellor bring forward his budget, focusing on the Covid-19 recovery. I spoke in the debate on culture and raised the important issue of the recovery of Edinburgh’s festivals, which may take years, not months. I called for support with insurance, recovery funding and fixing the gaps in employment support. See my full speech above.
Lots of constituents have contacted me about the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill. The majority of this Bill only applies to England and Wales as policing in Scotland is devolved to Holyrood. However, given that many areas of policy are reserved to Westminster, this Bill would have important implications for anyone in Scotland who wished to travel to England to protest at the UK Parliament, or elsewhere in the country. Something I, and many of my constituents, have done on numerous occasions.
The debate and vote took place at a time when violence against women is, quite rightly, at the forefront of our minds following the murder of Sarah Everard. Sarah’s murder has truly shocked and saddened us all, and the police response to women holding a vigil in her memory received widespread criticism. The Bill would never be justifiable, but in this context is even more difficult to comprehend.
My SNP colleagues and I voted against the second reading of the Bill, and we will continue to press the UK government to take real actions to tackle violence and harassment faced by women.
I am increasingly concerned about the treatment of people seeking asylum in the UK. Far too often, those seeking sanctuary from war and persecution are housed in inadequate and unsuitable accommodation. There is no better illustration of this than the use of run-down former military barracks to house asylum seekers. And the recent ‘overhaul’ of the system announced by the Home Secretary will only deepen the injustices asylum seekers already face. I have therefore written to the Home Secretary calling for urgent action to improve the asylum system and to ensure that all asylum seekers are treated with sensitivity, dignity and respect.
I attended an interesting meeting with the Environment All Party Parliamentary Group to discuss ** #NetZeroAgriculture ([link removed])
. Agriculture is a major contributing factor in climate change, so creative solutions are needed in order to respect the environment AND feed the world.
Since everyone seemed to enjoy last month's dog pictures, Henry is back - showing his support for World Book Day. He dressed up as his favourite character from a book!
I think my views on Brexit, and on how EU citizens living here have been treated by the UK government, have been pretty clear. However, much as I don't like the system, it is important that people know what action they must take in order to be able to remain in the UK.
The deadline of the 30th June 2021 for EU, EEA and Swiss citizens and their families to apply to the free of charge EU Settlement Scheme is fast approaching.
** The Scottish Government ([link removed])
has funded support services offered by ** Citizens Advice Scotland ([link removed])
, including a free and confidential helpline on 0800 916 9847.
A factsheet detailing your rights can also be found here: ** [link removed] ([link removed])
In case you missed it, Children's A&E in Edinburgh moved to the new Royal Hospital for Children and Young People on Tuesday 23 March. If your child or young person needs urgent care this is where you should attend. Looks like they moved out of their old home in the nick of time! A new resident appears to have moved in...
Lots of constituents have been in touch with me about the proposed Controlled Parking Zone at 'Willowbrae North' (from the Meadowbank entrance to Holyrood Park to Willowbrae Avenue) and ‘West Leith’ (roughly, the area between Lochend Road and Restalrig Road). The Council has been consulting on these proposals and I have been encouraging those who live in the area to take part. I also met with Council officials and other elected members to discuss residents’ concerns.
The University of Edinburgh’s Community Grants scheme is now open. The scheme helps the development of projects, community activities and sustainable local action through funding and collaboration. The deadline to submit applications is 5pm on Friday 9th Apr 2021. Find out more ** here ([link removed])
I had a positive and wide-ranging chat with Gary Love & Stephen Duncan of Historic Environment Scotland about the management of Holyrood Park. It's an incredible asset for our city & we can all enjoy it more if through traffic is reduced, while ensuring that people with restricted mobility can continue to access the Park. I’m pleased that to say that the car free hours are being extended until 17:45 and I’m hoping HES will consider extending this further. I’ll keep engaging with them on this.
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Tommy Sheppard MP . 94 Portobello High Street . Edinburgh, EH15 1AN . United Kingdom
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