OpenSpace Q&A with Tommy Sheppard MP talking about his campaign for SNP depute leadership and more!

Maxine Blane

All the questions and answers from the OpenSpace Q&A with SNP Depute candidate Tommy Sheppard MP

EDINBURGH EAST MP and SNP depute candidate Tommy Sheppard was live answering questions on Tuesday 20 August between 5-6pm in the second of our Q&A sessions with candidates standing for depute leadership of the SNP. Sheppard spoke at the rally on Glasgow Green to mark the second anniversary of the independence referendum on 18 September, and was be answering questions about his campaign for depute leadership, his aims to widen participation for the grassroots SNP membership and more.

If you missed it, don’t panic: We’ve collated all the questions and answers below, and they are also available to download as a document over on the OpenSpace page on CommonSocial. We’ll be uploading all the Q&A sessions hosted on OpenSpace to CommonSpace, and as downloadable documents that you can use as resources to share or start a discussion, so even if you can’t be online when a discussion is happening you can still get involved.

Join the OpenSpace page on CommonSocial now to make sure that you stay up-to-date with all the upcoming guests and what they’ll be talking about. If you’re not on CommonSocial, our editor Angela Haggerty has written a wee guide on how to sign up, and once you’re on you can join OpenSpace, or any other space you have an interest in and get a discussion started!

Tommy Sheppard

Hi folks. Apologies in advance but I'll need to leave early to attend a vigil at the Edinburgh Central Mosque which was the subject of an arson attack over the weekend. I will, though, come back later tonight (also got big Edinburgh hustings at 7.30) or tomorrow morning and reply to anything you ask.

David Inglis

Thanks Tommy, What time ranges will you be answering questions?


Hi David – Tommy is hoping to be online from 5 til about 6 to answer questions.

Q: David Inglis

Hi Tommy,

How much support is there for the SNP at Westminster? Watching PMQ's, I get the impression that the SNP are seen as a nuisance. Does any other party work constructively with you?
My girlfriend, who lives in your constituency, is facing a huge council tax bill due to some lost letters from the council and has now been referred to the Sheriffs, despite being a student.

Do you think that the SNP Government have starved local Councils of funding necessary to fund their services? How would you improve the situation?
Do you think that the UK Government will grant a referendum if it is demanded in a Scottish Parliament election?

A: Tommy

Hi David

On your first question we try to work together as opposition parties whenever we can but to be honest the difficulties inside the Labour Party make it tricky sometimes. We did work well, for example, on the Trade union bill where united opposition forced the government to back off on its worst proposals. The most infuriating part of the job is facing a Tory majority all the time and knowing that no matter how good our arguments when the bell rings their backbenchers will come streaming through the lobbies to vote for them. Not always, just 99%. We work very well all the time with Plaid and the SDLP Caroline Lucas the Green MP – I guess you'll find us all in the same lobby on nearly every vote.

With regard to council tax arrears your girlfriend is facing ask her to pop in ton our office so we can get the details and maybe intervene. Can't promise but maybe we can help. Certainly I've seem instances in the past where the council has been too quick to refer the case to debt collectors and court action starts when it shouldn't. 

I wouldn't say the "SNP government have starved councils of resources". The council tax freeze has been funded by the Scottish government providing councils with the funding they would have got from an inflation based increase of the council tax. That said, the overall level of funding for local councils has been going down in real terms. The reason for that is cuts in the block grant the Scottish government gets from Westminster – it will be almost 10% in real terms over the course of this decade. This is entirely because of the government's austerity policies and their desire tom reduce the deficit through cutting the relative size of the public sector rather than investing in growth.

The UK government may refuse to agree to a referendum – but we don't know for sure. I think they'd daft to do so as it would fuel resentment amongst the Scottish electorate. But if that happens the Scottish government would be well within its rights to consult the people of Scotland on their future constitutional position through a referendum anyway.

A: David

Thanks Tommy,
I suspected as much regarding the the parties you are working with. It often amazes me how Westminster works in that some of the behaviour of MPs is utterly ridiculous. If I did that in my job I would be fired.

I'll ask her to pop in to see you. They seem to do that without any reason and ask for the whole amount at once.

I saw there was a report that said that Scottish funding has been going down since 2010. I am a little worried that the approach that the Smith Commission agreed to regarding this is going to hit us with a huge bill when it is reviewed.

Hopefully a referendum will happen, but I expect it to be a real struggle.

Keep up the good work!

Q: Susannah Jennings

Hi Tommy, I live in Niddrie House Square,. I really like living here and there's some lovely people in my community. But the amount of litter and mess created by just a few people, spoils our surroundings, makes us feel down and also creates a health issue. I think a lot of people may not be able to afford the £30 fee the council charges for picking up unwanted furniture, and some people may not be able to afford gardening equipment. It makes me worried to see small children playing near broken glass, run down play areas and litter and dog fouling all over the place. What do you think would be the best way of tackling this issue? Susannah x

A: Tommy

Hi Susannah
Litter is one of the most common complaints we deal with and we've been pressing the council to do a lot better on cleaning up. It really annoys me too to see some people dumping their stuff without any regard for their neighbours. But the more we can get the standard up the less likely they are to do it. As you say there's a great community in Niddrie and there are some local groups who can help people with gardens and removals. If you've time pop into our part time office on Niddrie Mains Road (Mon to Wed afternoons) amd have a chat to me or one of the team and we can link you up with them.

A: Susannah

thank you Tommy 🙂

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Q: Linus West

Hi Tommy,

What's your take on the 'cash for access' corporate lobbying arrangement that seems to be taking place at the SNP Conference? Would you take any specific action on it as Deputy Leader?

Q: Eddie Morgan

I would like to ask the same question as this please. I was speaking to Robin Macalpine on Friday. Not only has Common Weal been pushed out of the Conference fringe because of the extortionate pricing. They were also going to charge him £900 just to be an observer…. I have been to three SNP conferences, and I have to say the fringe is an integral and very important part of the conference. When we consider the massive increase in membership and the desire for such events as the fringe. Pricing the grassroots organisations out, is surely an indefensible position

A: Tommy

Hi Linus

I have no problem with charging organisations who can well afford it a commercial fee to have a presence at our conference. These events cost a lot of money and if we can defray some of the costs through sponsorship what's the harm.

It would be a problem if in return for the payment an organisation were able to secure a change in party or government policy to suit its own ends. But despite the best efforts of the Herald to insinuate that this is the case – it most assuredly is not.

We can, and should, have a good relationship with Scotland's businesses, and be willing to listen to what they say. But when it comes to deciding what to do about something, their view will be one amongst many, and I'm confident an SNP government will always work in the interests of the people and country as a whole.

I am also concerned that campaigning organisations and others without corporate style budgets have access to our delegates and events and I have taken action as an NEC member to make sure that this happens.


A: Tommy

Hi Eddie

I agree that the conference fringe is a vital part of the event and that grassroots organisations should be represented there. It would be awful if the conference exhibition just became an array of corporate stands and no-one in the SNP wants that. 

This year the conference organisers tried to sell as many of the stands as possible to companies at a corporate rate first. So for a period this was the only rate on offer. But a few weeks ago once that phase was complete they were able to offer space to non-profit and campaign groups at a much reduced rate, many of whom have taken it up. I know they've been talking to Robin too but not sure where the discussion is at the moment.

The conference gets bigger every year and the party's success means that the world and its mother want to talk to us. I guess this might create a problem that demand from the corporates is so great that there's nothing left for the rest. I would keep this under review and see if we may need to introduce a policy of setting aside a certain proportion of available space for groups we know cannot pay a corporate rate.


A: Eddie

Thx Tommy!

Q: Eddie Morgan

Hello Tommy,

First of all, good luck with your campaign.

How do you intend to help empower non-partisan pro-independent grassroots organisations?

A: Tommy

Thanks Eddie

I came into the party after three years hectic involvement in the Yes campaign. I will dedicate myself to constructing a new political alliance for independence once we are clear on the timetable.

To win our campaign for self-government needs to be cross party and non party and I will aim to ensure that the SNP always adopts a welcoming and non sectarian attitude to anyone who wants to be part of it.

My instincts also would be to prioritise the development of local grassroots campaigns as I think they are the most effective in reaching out and persuading people.



A: Eddie

Thx again for your reply Tommy. 

All the best


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Have to sign off for a bit – back later

Q: Colin Mackay

Hi Tommy,
Good to speak to you and thanks for offering the time. Very impressed with how yourself, Mr Robertson and co have handled things in Westminster so far. 

I have a question, a fairly general one I suppose. I voted SNP this year and had really hoped the new membership would have helped pull them leftwards, especially on important issues like abolishing the council tax and replacing it with a socially progressive tax. I worry that if this influx of 100k members have not managed this so far, will the SNP ever become the party I'd like them to be? 

I understand the number one aim is independence but I don't agree with a 'don't upset too many people just incase' policy and I feel this is somewhat present at times. Surely with social inequality at the heart of the SNP's manifesto, council tax reform had to be at least attempted? I honestly believe that if the time and effort was put into truly changing some of the broken systems we already have, and making a success of it like I know we could, this would change the minds of thousands of No voters who would feel a lot more confident in something they are seeing and feeling. 

What are your thoughts on this and would you hope to influence some more socially progressive change from the party as Deputy or do you think the current trajectory is adequate?


Q: Rab Hay

Hey Tommy, when do you think the next referendum will be? Do you think it will take a few years for us to work on where we failed last time and to be ready to win?
When we win the next referendum where are you and your 55 colleagues going to fit in to the future of the SNP?


Unfortunately since Tommy was called away yesterday not all questions will receive an answer, but we'd like to thank everyone who took part and hope to see you again for future Q&As!

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