• Thu. May 30th, 2024

In Conversation with Tommy Sheppard MP

Photo of Tommy Sheppard in a suit
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The Student spoke to Tommy Sheppard, Scottish National Party (SNP) MP for Edinburgh East, on wide-ranging topics from independence to the housing crisis to his stand-up comedy club ‘The Stand’. 

Sheppard is running for a fourth term in the upcoming general elections, which must be held before January 2025, and is hoping for a “fourth time lucky”.

Touching on independence, Sheppard stated that a referendum is “closer than we have ever been” as he believes that pro-independence is the “mainstream political position amongst most people in the country”.

He also suggested that  “at the end of the day it’s all about political agency, having the ability to control your own life”. This consequently prompted a question that this rhetoric was similar to the one used by the ‘Leave’ the EU Campaign in 2016.

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Sheppard responded to this by arguing that the SNP is “arguing for having the power to represent ourselves”.

He mentioned he wants to achieve Scottish independence by “to revisit the 1998 Scotland Act…we need to amend the schedule of reserved matters.”

There is a schedule of topics the Scottish government is not allowed to discuss, these are called reserved matters. 

However, recent polls have suggested that Labour will take seats from the SNP in the next elections, according to Sheppard a Labour victory in the elections is “a slam dunk”. 

This comes following the recent challenges the SNP has faced; which include the investigation into the SNP’s finances (Operation Branchform), Health Secretary Matheson’s iPad scandal, the COVID inquiry and the loss of the Gender Recognition Reform case. 

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Sheppard acknowledged that “our support has been dented, there is no question about that,” and that “a proportion of those who voted for me [Sheppard] last time around need a lot of convincing to do so again.” 

Specifically commenting on Operation Branchform, Sheppard said:

“I know that our financial accounting mechanisms were not good enough, they were slacking, there wasn’t enough … who was spending large sums of money within the organisation, that’s all been changed.”

Despite acknowledging the SNP’s financial follies, Sheppard then suggested the scandal was trivial in comparison to “Michelle Mone pocketing 60 million pounds over mis-selling PPE to the British government during the COVID pandemic,” asking, “is there an equivalence there?”

Read More: Nicola Sturgeon arrested in investigation into SNP’s finances

On the topic of the cost of living crisis and housing crisis in Edinburgh, Sheppard stated: “it’s unacceptable to me that students are getting ripped off.”

He spoke about the new development of luxury flats, which are said to assist with student homelessness. However, Sheppard equated that to saying that “mansions are good to get people out of hostels.”  

He continued by stating that: 

“No one can afford these rents [in Edinburgh] unless you’re part of the Chinese aristocracy. I don’t know where they come from. Clearly some people can afford these massive rents, but most students simply cannot.”

He additionally commented that “an institution with the resources and the bank account that Edinburgh [University] has”, should be able to provide accommodation at a reasonable price for their students. 

“Why are they letting companies like Unite develop student accommodation or being privatised?

“They should control the rents, the facilities and the access, wouldn’t that be better than allowing it to be privatised.” 

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Sheppard suggested that the University should “maximise the number of Scottish students that can attend university and ensure that they are not charged for tuition whilst they are there.”

Sheppard also touched on his stand-up comedy club ‘The Stand’ and whilst he helped found the club, he stated that the idea of doing stand-up comedy “terrifies me”. 

When questioned what his favourite cocktail is, he said a glass of red wine or “sometimes two” is what he would drink after a long day walking around the constituency. 

Top: “File:Official portrait of Tommy Sheppard MP crop 1.jpg” by David Woolfall is licensed under CC BY 3.0.

Bottom: Image via Lucy Frewin