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Tommy Sheppard MP Newsletter
July already - and some things never change. As I write this, it's raining outside once again - you've got to love a Scottish summer. In all seriousness, I know how difficult it is to stick to the government guidelines and meet family or friends outside when the weather is so unpredictable. I do feel that we are turning a corner though thanks to everyone's efforts. The number of Covid-19 cases in Scotland has dropped significantly as, thankfully, have the number of those dying. Of course that doesn't take away the grief from those who have lost someone and I want to offer my sincere condolences to their family and friends.
That we have made such progress is thanks to everyone who has stuck to the rules and stopped the spread of this disease. We are now in Phase 2 of the lifting of lockdown with an announcement on Phase 3 due next Thursday. You can read the latest information from the Scottish government on Phase 2 here ([link removed]) .
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 contact me and the team on 0131 661 8023 or by emailing [email protected]
This month I received an overwhelming number of emails from constituents about the Black Lives Matter movement. At over 500 this has to be one the things I have received the most correspondence about since becoming an MP. And rightly so. The horrific murder of George Floyd and subsequent reaction in America affects us all. Scotland is no exception when it comes to racism and I appreciate all those who took the time to contact me to share their concerns and experiences. I fully support the campaign and will continue to do all I can to help tackle the systemic racism that exists in our society.
As you will know, Westminster has been sitting all month. After the debacle of Jacob Rees-Mogg trying to remove all aspects of the virtual Parliament I am pleased to say that, after considerable pressure, the UK government did back down a little. Those of us unable to travel to London due to the pandemic are now able to ask questions virtually and have a vote by proxy (so a colleague can cast our vote for us). This is a positive step but I still cannot take part in debates and I remain concerned that electronic voting has been removed when it was so efficient.
A number of constituents who are falling through the gaps of the UK government support schemes have also been in contact. As you may be aware from my previous newsletter, I have raised concerns about both the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme with the Chancellor. After months of waiting I received a generic response which simply wasn't good enough. I have therefore written again - you can see my latest letter ** here ([link removed])
** ([link removed])
One of the big questions now is how we recover from the Covid-19 pandemic. There can be no doubt that our economy has been hit hard. But I don't want to see us return to how things we were. We need to consider the kind of country we want to be - what kind of economy do we want and need? How do we include everyone? How do we ensure that tackling climate change is at the core of our decision making? I wrote my latest Edinburgh Evening News column on this - read it ** here ([link removed])
The reality is that the Scottish government will always be trying to lead a recovery in a fiscal framework that isn't fit for purpose. Tuesday's big speech by Boris Johnson emphasised this once again - among many issues with his plan is that it actually involved no extra money for Scotland. Twice I have asked Jacob Rees-Mogg when Westminster will debate changes to the fiscal framework to allow the Scottish government to better cope with Covid-19. Twice he has given glib answers. You can watch my first attempt ** here ([link removed])
and my second attempt from last week's business questions above.
A key element of how we recover is putting climate at the centre. Earlier this week I took part in the Climate Change Coalition's virtual lobby where I met with constituents online to hear their concerns about the climate emergency. The format worked well and we had some very positive and useful discussions. It's clear that we cannot just go back to how things were.
It probably won't have escaped your notice that the date for extending the Brexit transition period has passed. That the UK government has failed to seek an extension risking a cliff edge exit in December, on top of the damage caused by the pandemic, is utterly shameful. I joined with colleagues from across the political spectrum to support a Bill which would have repealed the section of the EU Withdrawal Bill that prevents Minsters requesting an extension and given parliament a vote on a proposed extension to the transition period. The sad reality is that with a majority of 80, it is very difficult to stop this Tory government doing what they want.
And this was shown again on Tuesday as the Immigration Bill passed. Despite our best efforts to push amendments on visa extensions, family reunion for refugees and the protection of asylum seekers, the Bill passed ending freedom of movement. The impact of the Bill will be awful for Scotland - we need powers over immigration so that Holyrood can actually address Scotland's needs.
And to say a final couple of words about how the UK is seen in the world, you may be aware that this month the UK government announced that the Department for International Development will be merged into the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. This is a terrible move, one that I strongly oppose and will continue to argue against.
I also remain deeply concerned about the Israeli government’s annexation proposals in the West Bank. This cannot be allowed to go unchallenged by the UK government - not just for the people of Palestine but for the message it gives about upholding international law. The SNP Foreign Affairs spokesperson raised this at FCO questions on Tuesday - read the exchange ** here ([link removed])
. I also joined over 1000 European politicians in expressing our rejection of the annexation - read more ** here. ([link removed])
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Tommy Sheppard MP . 94 Portobello High Street . Edinburgh, EH15 1AN . United Kingdom
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