Tommy Sheppard

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Tommy Sheppard

Official portrait of Tommy Sheppard MP crop 2.jpg
Sheppard in 2020
Member of Parliament
for Edinburgh East
Assumed office
7 May 2015
Preceded by Sheila Gilmore
Majority10,417 (21.7%)
Personal details
Born (1959-03-06) 6 March 1959 (age 62)
Coleraine, Northern Ireland,
Political party Scottish National Party (2014–present)
Other political
Labour (1979–2003)
Alma mater University of Aberdeen
Website Official website

Tommy Sheppard (born 6 March 1959) is a Scottish National Party (SNP) politician who has been the Member of Parliament (MP) for Edinburgh East since May 2015. [1] He is the SNP spokesperson on the Cabinet Office in the House of Commons. He is also known for founding The Stand Comedy Clubs in Edinburgh and Glasgow. [2]


Early life and education

Sheppard was born in Coleraine, County Londonderry, Northern Ireland, in 1959 and moved to nearby Portstewart at the age of seven. He was educated at Coleraine Academical Institution before attending the University of Aberdeen to study medicine. [3] He graduated with a degree in politics and sociology in 1982. That same year he was elected Vice-President of the NUS and moved to London. [4]

Political career

He left the NUS in 1984 to work in the East End of London and in 1986 was elected as a Labour member, on Hackney London Borough Council. In 1990 he became Deputy Leader of the council. [4] Sheppard unsuccessfully contested Bury St Edmunds at the 1992 United Kingdom general election for the Labour Party, polling 14,767 votes and 23.6% of the vote. He moved back to Scotland and settled in Edinburgh, taking up a position with the District Council. In 1994 he was appointed Assistant General Secretary of Scottish Labour under John Smith. In 1997 he was made redundant from this role due to internal policy disagreements. [4] He ceased to renew his Labour Party membership in 2003, stating: "I joined the Labour Party in 1979, just before my 21st birthday. Now 25 years later I've finally got around to cancelling the direct debit. I can no longer bring myself to vote Labour. My outlook has barely changed, but clearly the Labour Party has. I can no longer believe the Labour Party is likely to change the world very much, or at least not in a direction I would like". [5]

In 2012 he became the Edinburgh South organiser of the Yes Scotland campaign, but joined the SNP only in 2014 after the 2014 Scottish independence referendum. He was selected as candidate for the Edinburgh East constituency [6] and polled 23,188 and 49.2% of the vote, securing election with a majority of 9,106 and defeating incumbent Labour MP Sheila Gilmore. In October 2015 Tommy was elected to the SNP's National Executive Committee. In March 2016 the Parliamentary Standards Committee announced that Mr Sheppard was under investigation for non-declaratory incomes. Last year his own company Salt n' Sauce Promotions Limited shareholder Funds had proven greater than Sheppard had claimed. He was reprimanded in the press by chairman Lord Bew, who called on reforms to be made to the scrutiny process of MPs earnings. At present such reported errors could be dismissed as merely "administrative" omissions. The details included thresholds governing how much ownership and share of control over companies must be over 15%. [7]

Sheppard is a staunch republican, and during the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton, he remarked "off with their heads", prompting some criticism. [8] Writing ahead of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's wedding in 2018, Shappard's said, "There are many things to be proud of in Britain, but the class system and the inequality it spawns is not one of them. The monarchy sits at the apex of that system of patronage and privilege." [9]

Sheppard is an atheist and a humanist, and was elected Vice Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Humanist Group in 2017. [10]

He held his Edinburgh East seat in the 2017 United Kingdom general election, albeit with a slightly reduced majority. [11] During the election, he urged the Scottish Greens to step down from contesting marginal seats where the pro-independence vote might be split. [12]

Following the 2017 election, which he described as a "major wake-up call" for the SNP, Sheppard encouraged First Minister Nicola Sturgeon to abandon plans for a second Scottish independence referendum before Brexit. He suggested the cause of Scottish independence would be served best if Sturgeon offered Scotland a vote on a future relationship with the European Union after Brexit and only once Scotland had become independent. [13] In November 2017 he claimed that Scotland still had a mandate for a second independence referendum and that the Conservatives were wrong to think that the loss in SNP seats in the snap general election had caused a delay in the timetable for a second vote. [14]

He has expressed admiration for the 18th century Scottish reformer and radical Thomas Muir, linking Muir's politics and life to the modern Scottish independence movement. [15]

In 2018, he was widely considered one of the possible contenders for the 2018 Scottish National Party depute leadership election after having stood in the previous 2016 depute leadership election, but ruled himself out. [16]

In July 2018, reflecting on the decision of SNP MPs to vote no confidence in the Labour Government in 1979, Sheppard told the House of Commons, "In retrospect, I would have done exactly the same thing.” [17]


Sheppard is a co-founder and former manager and promoter of The Stand Comedy Clubs in Edinburgh, Glasgow and Newcastle. [18]

Personal life

In 2016, he told John Pienaar on BBC Radio 5 Live that he had taken amphetamines and cannabis when he was younger. [19]

He is an honorary associate of the National Secular Society [20]

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  1. Tufft, Ben (8 May 2015). "Scottish MPs in Westminster: The full list of the SNP parliamentarians". The Independent . London. Retrieved 8 May 2015.
  2. "Applause for The Stand as it celebrates twentieth birthday". The National. Glasgow. 21 March 2018. Retrieved 27 March 2018.
  3. Leask, David (1 June 2015). "Analysis: SNP bucks trend for privately educated MPs". The Herald . Glasgow. Retrieved 1 June 2015.
  4. 1 2 3 "Tommy Sheppard SNP Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for Edinburgh East".
  5. "Crisis inside Labour Party". Socialist Worker . 15 March 2003. Retrieved 3 June 2015.
  6. Swanson, Ian (27 January 2015). "Tommy Sheppard named SNP Edinburgh East candidate". Evening News . Edinburgh. Retrieved 11 May 2015.
  7. The Daily Telegraph. London. 9 March 2016.
  8. Barrett, David; Whitehead, Tom (8 May 2015). "The maverick SNP MPs heading to Westminster". The Daily Telegraph. London.
  10. "Crispin Blunt and Joan Bakewell elected as Chair and Co-Chair of humanists in Parliament". Humanists UK. 13 September 2017. Retrieved 14 September 2017.
  11. "Edinburgh East parliamentary constituency - Election 2017". BBC News. Retrieved 5 March 2018.
  12. Nutt, Kathleeen (26 April 2017). "SNP MP Tommy Sheppard calls on Greens to avoid splitting pro-independence vote in marginal seats". The National. Glasgow. Retrieved 5 March 2018.
  13. Sanderson, Daniel (25 August 2017). "Ditch threat of referendum before Brexit, Tommy Sheppard tells Nicola Sturgeon" . The Times. London. Retrieved 10 March 2018.
  14. Learmonth, Andrew (14 November 2017). "Tommy Sheppard: We've got a mandate for indyref 2 and if you ignore our wishes we'll use it". The National. Glasgow. Retrieved 10 March 2018.
  15. "Tommy Sheppard: How we win the next referendum". The National. Glasgow. 26 August 2017. Retrieved 10 March 2018.
  16. MacNab, Scott (4 March 2018). "Senior MPs ruled out of running for SNP deputy position". The Scotsman. Edinburgh. Retrieved 5 March 2018.
  18. Johnston, Alex (8 May 2015). "Tommy Sheppard, local councillor turned comedy impresario, is elected MP". The List. Retrieved 28 October 2015.
  19. "SNP MP has admitted taking amphetamines". video courtesy BBC Radio 5Live/In Short 1:27PM GMT. Press Association. 8 November 2015. Retrieved 5 March 2018.
  20. "National Secular Society Honorary Associates". National Secular Society. Retrieved 27 July 2019
Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Sheila Gilmore
Member of Parliament
for Edinburgh East