Podcast: Tommy’s journey from Labour mainstream to SNP


It is being billed as one of the most polite campaigns of recent politics. Chris , Angus Robertson Tommy Sheppard and Alyn Smith have been traversing the nation at hustings among the Scottish National Party’s 120,000 members, debating which of them should be the next SNP deputy leader.

Tommy Sheppard MP
Tommy Sheppard MP

The contest, brought about by the abrupt departure of Stewart Hosie in early summer, brings together four candidates of different politics and backgrounds. Each has a different vision for the way the job should be done, as the party gears up for “interesting times” following the UK referendum on Europe.

Tommy Sheppard, who wants to strengthen the SNP’s organisational skills, visited the Newsnet studio to meet podcast regular host Derek Bateman and discuss the campaign, as well as his own personal journey from Labour to SNP.

Tommy was a full time organiser for the Labour Party in Scotland during the 1990s, but left the party in 2001. He joined the SNP in the wake of the 2014 referendum, during which he had campaigned for Yes and rekindled his enthusiasm for politics.

You can listen by clicking on the audio file above, via your usual podcast channels including iTunes, or using our RSS feed: http://www.buzzsprout.com/57229.rss.

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  1. As Derek said, I have a favourite, but I don’t think I’m too bothered about which of them wins. They all have the ability, and they all have a good case, which includes a unique selling point. And yes, it has been a great campaign conducted to standards that put the Westminster parties to shame!

  2. This meaningless ‘contest’ is all a big yawn. The 56 were given a mandate to walk out of Westminster; they did the opposite and settled in. The SNP seem to have morphed into Scotland’s version of New Labour – providing a loyal ‘opposition’ within the union for ‘as long as it takes’. In another 20 years Tommy will seem just like another Gavin Strang, and we’ll probably be no nearer indy.

    • In what way were they given a mandate to walk out of Westminster? Was such a course of action in the manifesto that formed the basis of their campaign during the General Election in 2015?

      If it was not in the manifesto they set before the electorate then they do not have a mandate to walk out.

      • The people voted them the authority to realise the raison detre of the party. In case it is news to you, parties tend to do things that are not in their manifesto. 56 MPs is 95% of Scottish seats = majority to do as the people voted. Even Mrs Thatcher understood that.

  3. “Even Mrs Thatcher understood that”
    Because loved her or hated her nobody can deny that she was a much smarter person than any of the obstinate numpties – linked by an umbilical cord to the MSM and ‘by threads to their generous’ lobbyists handlers – that are today in the establishment parties.

    I completely disagree with you on the rest, though. Expecting the SNP MPs to simply walk away from Westminster will win absolutely nothing: to win the battle you have to unite your troops, not divide them. The battle Scotland is fighting is not about defeating those in Westminster: that is easy, if you want to do so, you just have cut their umbilical cord to the press and they will become nonentities in no time. The battle is about bringing on board the 55% that rejected the idea of independence in 2014, not about alienating them even more, but somehow I think you already know that, didn’t you?

    You cannot deny that it has been incredibly telling and educating for that 55% to see how the majority of the Scottish MPs – and with that the overwhelming majority of the people of Scotland they represent – are being continuously ignored and ostracised at Westminster. Those brave MPs are showing day in day out that the promise made by the Better Together Campaign – that if remaining in the UK, Scotland would be listened to and respected – was a big fat lie. Don’t you agree?

    The presence of 56 SNP MPs at westminster has also shown to those that refused to see it before that no matter the way Scotland votes, it will always be lumbered with whatever England wants. As an educating exercise that has been priceless because now the Labour party cannot longer con and scare voters by peddling that nonsense that voting anything else that is not Labour will bring a Tory government. All of Scotland knows now that this nonsense was just a big pile of crap. That has definitely been a success, don’t you agree?

    Only a 14% of the electorate voting in the GE in Scotland voted for a Tory government. Scotland sent only three unionist parties MPs to westminster and yet, their opinion seem to be counting far more than that of the rest in matters affecting Scotland such as the Iraq bombing, Syria bombing, Trident renewal or even Brexit. That has also been incredibly educating for that 55% because it has shown to everybody that Westminster actually turns Scottish democracy upside down: it is not the winners in Scotland who have the say, it is the losers who follow like sheep the lead of their English counterparts who succeed. That is not democracy for Scotland. How revealing is that?

    For as long as the 56 SNP MPs remain in Westminster we will have a day to day reminder of what Westminster is really doing to Scotland, and to get those 55% on board , that exercise is simply priceless. Don’t you think?

    Alf Baird, the SNP MPs were not given mandate to walk away from Westminster by the people of Scotland. If the people of Scotland wanted that they would have simply chosen not to vote. But again, somehow I think you already knew that.

    • So, one solitary Tory MP still rules the Scottish roost and is clearly more than a match for 56 mostly former unionists now masquerading as ‘nationalist’ MPs. We get what we vote for, as they say.

      • “We get what we vote for, as they say”

        In England always Alf Baird, in Scotland only when it agrees with what England has voted. In Scotland you get what England voted for, no matter how strongly the country votes against it. Case in point is being lumbered with a Tory government Scotland didn’t vote for, but England did. Don’t you agree?

        Another beauty of an example of how you don’t get what you vote for in Scotland is the vote in the renewal of Trident: All Scottish MPs but one voted against Trident renewal and yet, Scotland gets lumbered with the monstrosities. Monstrosities that cannot be moved to England because ‘they are too dangerous for the population’. Nice one no? The population in England must be taken into account while the one in Scotland can melt and disintegrate if something goes wrong with the monstrosities. I don’t see Mr Mundell doing anything about this, do you? No, is too busy shouting about indiref2. Do You think its priorities are out of place because he doesn’t really care about Scotland and its people?

        Mind you, that MP that voted for the renewal of Trident did so completely ignoring the prior vote in the Scottish Parliament that also ruled against the renewal of Trident. When Tory Scottish MPs overrules the decisions of the Scottish Parliament without batting an eyelid like that, one has to wonder who he is really representing, don’t you agree?

        By the way, Alf Baird, because only Mr Mundell voted for the renewal of Trident, do you think that his constituents are going to be happy to foot the bill for the costs of Trident that are going to be allocated to Scotland? I mean, the rest of the Scottish constituencies didn’t vote for Mr Mundell to represent them and their MPs voted against Trident in line with the vote of the Scottish Parliament, so why on earth should they be made pay for the Mundell’s self-serving stupidity?

        “is clearly more than a match for 56 mostly former unionists now masquerading as ‘nationalist’ MPs”
        In your opinion Alf Baird, it may well be. In mine he most certainly it is not. To be frank, after listening the individual in question a couple of times I have wondered ever since if not making sense and continuously talking rubbish is a mandatory skill to become a Tory MP. No, Alf Baird he is not a match even for the toddler next door. At least the toddler next door makes sense in what he says and is constant in his demands, nothing like Mr Mundell and Ms Davidson’s flip flop approach to the EU: now we must all vote to remain because this is the best for Scotland, now we must leave the EU because it is the best for….sorry, for who was it?

        The illusion that ‘one solitary Tory MP’ rules the roost to the detriment of the whole of Scotland Alf Baird can only happen in a Union like the one we are in where the roost is being ruled by the remaining Tory MPs sitting in Westminster plus a few red tories non elected by the people of Scotland but by the constituents of other country. We cannot thank Mr Mundell enough for having opened our eyes to such a mind blowing fact. Don’t you agree?

    • “You cannot deny that it has been incredibly telling and educating for that 55% to see how the majority of the Scottish MPs – and with that the overwhelming majority of the people of Scotland they represent – are being continuously ignored and ostracised at Westminster. Those brave MPs are showing day in day out that the promise made by the Better Together Campaign – that if remaining in the UK, Scotland would be listened to and respected – was a big fat lie. Don’t you agree?”
      It’s only what you say above if the 55% are paying attention. If it had been “telling and educating” I would have guessed that support for independence would have rocketed, but it has not.
      The 56mps – why do they need reminded every day? Haven’t they seen enough?
      And now, 2 years after Indyref, the SNP want to have some kind of national conversation. Not exactly fast off the mark, are they?
      I confess to having mixed feelings about what action the 56 mps should take, but right now they can only claim small victories. On the big stuff, they are powerless.

  4. Thoroughly enjoyed that interview. I went to one of the hustings and goodness me they are all so good. Difficult to choose but Tommy must be up there as one of the favourites.

    Thanks Derek Bateman.

  5. Have been fortunate enough to meet three of the candidates in person and a very fine selection they are.
    The question I asked myself was,should anything happen to Nicola,who would be the best person to lead our party?
    People can carp all they like from the sidelines about SNP bad but we are an exceptionally democratic party who have evolved along with Scottish political opinion and seek to represent our constituents rather than dictate to them as we have seen from the English based parties once in power.
    We do listen to what people are saying and act accordingly.
    The most important quality we must have is to demonstrate competent governance to all Scots if we are to convince the majority that independence is a viable prospect.
    Walking away is not how to do that.
    The Scottish electorate are a pretty conservative bunch and foisting radical policies on them too quickly will only result in rejection at the ballot box.
    We need to ca canny if we are to win the prize of independence.
    I think Tommy will make a fine leader some day.
    Thanks Derek.

    • Yet the fact remains we Scots must still meekly submit to rule by one Tory MP over 56 “roaring lions”, demonstrating utter contempt for our democracy. And you still feel the need to “demonstrate competent governance”, and to “ca canny”, and to be “an exceptionally democratic party”, in the face of such contempt and continued exploitation? Independence is never for the faint hearted but I fear the SNP is now only for the faint hearted “ca canny” career politician, many as I noted former/recent unionists. As Brian notes above “they are powerless”; but this is only because they do not assume the power the voters gave them by virtue of an overwhelming Scottish majority. Independence is not a “prize” like some kind of lottery, independence is our right.

        • A majority of Scotland’s MPs has always been enough to end the union, just as it was enough to begin it. One solitary Tory MP running Scotland and effectively telling 56 MPs (95%) where to go is a democratic joke.

          • “A majority of Scotland’s MPs has always been enough to end the union”

            Is that a joke Alf? Or rather throwing salt at the wounds? How on earth is Scotland going to get a majority of MPs in Westminster?

            Actually Alf, considering the current situation we are in, where clearly no matter how Scotland votes it will never get its way in Westminster unless it agrees with what England wants, I do not think that ‘jokes’ like that are funny anymore.

            “One solitary Tory MP running Scotland and effectively telling 56 MPs (95%) where to go is a democratic joke”

            Sorry to burst your bubble Alf but that Tory MP is not doing anything of the sort. Actually, as a matter of fact he is the one that is being told what to do and what to say by his English masters and not doing a very job at that either: flip-flop self-serving politics, now-we-must-remain-in-the-EU/never-mind-the-63%-now-we-must-leave-EU-because-my English-masters-say-so.

            Yes, you are right, the current situation in the Union is a democratic joke and yet you got the STories, sLibdems and SLabour demanding Scotland to remain on it. And these people are meant to represent Scotland, that is what is a joke Alf.

          • How do you think UDI is going to play with the No voting Scots?
            It would give Westminster the excuse to “intervene” and who knows where that would end.
            The process has to be through democratic means such that there is no ambiguity and is clearly supported by a majority of Scots.

      • “Independence is not a “prize” like some kind of lottery, independence is our right”

        True, but it is the right of the majority. Before seize that prize you have to win the majority. You are not going to do that by walking away from Westminster and you know that very well Alf.

        You said in one of your comments that even Ms Thatcher knew that having 56 SNP MPs at westminster meant the Union was over. Right then, so what on earth are Ms Davidson and Mr Mundell playing at? Why they keep rejecting Indiref2? Aren’t they gifted with the wisdom that Ms Thatcher had or they are simply self-serving and stubborn who refuse to accept what is in front of their noses? If you cannot trust them with what you can see, how can you trust them with what you cannot see?

        What is it that you are attempting to achieve here Alf? Do the SNP MPs scare you that much that you rather they weren’t in Westminster? And why is that Alf, is it because they are showing the MPs you much rather see sitting in Westminster for the self-serving incompetent they are?

  6. I voted for Tommy marginally over Alyn, I think Tommy brings new ideas and a degree of freshness regards inequality.

    All four were good candidates, but Angus has a post already.

    I’d like to see Tommy bring in a new radicalism with support from Nicola, John et al.

    If my preferred candidate does not win, c’est la vie, as a united movement we get behind the leadership!

    Good luck Tommy!

    Soar nan Alba!

  7. “I would have guessed that support for independence would have rocketed, but it has not”
    How do you know? Is your assertion based in any survey and polls commented on the MSM or you have your own? Remember the last GE when all the polls mentioned in the MSM pointed out to Ed Miliband becoming PM? Oh boy, didn’t they get it wrong! I would think twice before believing any poll published in the MSM. In the circles where I move, a significant number of No voters have turned to yes. The last one I know who did was over the vote on Trident. I rather trust what I see that what I am told by an MSM which is biased towards unionism.

    “why do they need reminded every day? Haven’t they seen enough?”
    Well, Brian, Didn’t you say above that support for independence hasn’t rocketed? So the 55% obviously haven’t seen enough yet. My hope is that they will have their eyes wide open when May triggers article 50 (if she ever does, that is). It is not the MPs who need to see Brian, it is the 55%, but you did know that already, didn’t you?

    “And now, 2 years after Indyref, the SNP want to have some kind of national conversation. Not exactly fast off the mark, are they?”
    I am not part of the SNP so I don’t really know. You need to ask them to find your answer. But hey, from my perspective as a voter they seem to me to be the only party in Scotland that actually is interested in knowing what their electorate wants/thinks. And in fact, you may be wanting to mock them but to me they have been respectful of the 55% even when they overwhelmingly won during the GE and also did very well in the Scottish election: it is only now, after the result on the EU referendum that they feel they can justify that ‘national conversation’. Now, when are the establishment parties and the MSM going to acknowledge the 45%?

    I do not see any of the establishment parties losing their backsides to listen either. No, they are more of the arrogant and irrational types who put their fingers in their ears and shout:
    no indiref2!
    WE caused the mess but is the SNP who is bad!
    We lied and stretched the truth to breaking point during indiref1 but it is the Independence supporters who are nasty!
    We know we will lose this time so we reject indiref2!

    How very mature and understanding, no? At least the SNP are behaving like sensible adults and listening Brian, which is far more than what you can say for the three unionist parties.

    And well, talking about the speed of a snail Brian, we have been waiting for how long now? Ah yes! 3 whooping months for the Tories to come up with a plan for Brexit or even a date. Any sign of it yet? Nope! Not a sausage! Zero! Nada! Zilch! Well, not exactly fast off the mark, are they Brian? What do you think they are waiting for, the sun to disintegrate of old age so they don’t have to worry about that anymore? How very comforting.

    Flip flops Ruthie and Mundell seem hell on bent to drag Scotland out of the EU now, after a 63% voted to remain and while before they asked for a remain vote and Ruthie even had a convincing go at Johnson and against brexit on the telly debates. That is some consistency for the electorate, isn’t it Brian?

    Did Ms Davidson faced the EU citizens living in Scotland after brexit, even when she was claiming during Indiref1 campaign that the way to ensure Scotland to remain in the EU would be with a NO vote? Nope!, only Ms Sturgeon did. Did Ms Davidson apologised for the misleading comments she made about the no vote and remaining in the EU during indiref1? Nope. She may ride tanks and buffaloes alright, but she has not shown a lot of courage on that department, don’t you think Brian?

    Is Ms Davidson or Mundell reassuring Scotland at all about what is happening? I mean, isn’t their party who is messing/sorry, dealing, well, more like delaying dealing with Brexit? Nope. Well, they criticise the SNP for not being able to patch up the dirty mess that her own party has caused. How nice and considerate of them!

    Quite frankly Brian, I will not be an SNP member but looking at the monumental difference between the mature way the SNP addresses the electorate and the amateur babblings and disappearing acts when trouble is on the horizon of the three unionist parties in Scotland, there is no doubt in my mind who is going to get my vote next time.

    “I confess to having mixed feelings about what action the 56 mps should take, but right now they can only claim small victories”
    Which is far more than what any other MPs sent from Scotland on their own has achieved. Isn’t it? Rome wasn’t conquered in one day Brian.

    “On the big stuff, they are powerless”
    I couldn’t put it better myself Brian. You are spot on, and that is exactly the point: any effort that Scotland makes to change Westminster governments is and will always be powerless because, while clearly the political direction followed by Scotland is different from that of England, the massive disproportion between the population numbers of Scotland and England will ensure that for as long as Scotland remains in this union its decisions will be silenced and overridden by those of England. And outrageously, we have three establishment parties’ branches in Scotland demanding from Scotland precisely that: to forget about their result in the last referendum and to renounce to its right of governing itself so another country can do it instead, but not for Scotland’s benefit but for its own. Can we say that those parties really care for Scotland, Brian?

    The only way to stop this madness is for part of those 55% to see it and it will take as long as it will take.
    The reality Brian is that support for independence doesn’t need to rocket. Its support was already at a 45% in 2014, and that was even with all the propaganda churned by the MSM, project fear and the ‘promises’ made by the Better Together, including that of ‘the best way to ensure that Scotland will remain in the EU is….’. We just need another 6% more to see beyond all that. I am confident that Ms May pressing the Brexit button (I am confident that , differently to Ms Dugdale, she will know how to press a button) will do just that.

      • Whatever floats your boat, Alf.

        By the way Alf, judging by the serious level of critical thinking you are displaying analysing my comments, I am wondering if you perhaps could give us an update on how the investigations about Tory electoral fraud are going and if you envision any resignations over that? I most intrigued by that.

        Do you think that Cameron’s unexpected and sudden departure from the HoC could have anything to do with that or is rather a matter of him feeling that being in the backbenches wasn’t far back enough to cover his backside of a nasty splash from the bombshell of brexit (which his casino politics threw on everybody else, of course)?

        • When you elect to join a rotten club, and take its pay and perks, you have to put up with rotten members. Better for the 56-against-1 to resign en masse and claim our right. But that takes passion, commitment, and courage, hardly virtues commonly associated with career politicians, more especially those who flip sides as they see how the wind blaws.

          • “Better for the 56-against-1 to resign en masse and claim our right”

            I understand your passion on this Alf, and perhaps in an ideal world that would be the brave thing to do, but unfortunately this is a rotten world and to get results you need other sort of actions.

            To is credit the independence movement has got very far by a lot of hard graft and all against an incredibly hostile press shamefully including the state broadcaster, enormous amount of contempt shown by the three unionist parties and a disgraceful elite within this country with roots elsewhere that still has a massive grip and not particular care about the people of this country. How the establishment crawled out of the rocks to protect Alistair Carmichael after his mess simply beggars belief. I often wonder what would be the establishment reaction if he was an SNP MP rather than a LIbDem one. Double standards alright.

            At this moment in time bold movements like the one you propose don’t do the independence movement any favours, quite the opposite in fact, but I suspect you know that quite well.

            We have to be realistic Alf, where is that going to get us? For starters how do you know that the majority of the people living in Scotland would back those MPs leaving them without any representation within the government that unfortunately still has the legitimate control over most of our affairs? You don’t.

            How do you know that they are not going to revolt against it and kill the entire movement of independence out of spite? You don’t

            How do you think the Westminster gov is going to react to that? Remember Falklands? Come on Alf, surely this has crossed your mind!

            How about NI? Who is nearer to achieve independence NI or Scotland Alf? How far are the NI people getting independence since some of their MPs refused to sit in Westminster? How has that helped?

            Alf I wasn’t bothered in the least in politics 3 years ago. The independence referendum brought me to life. I never watched the discussions in parliament until recently. I thought they were a bore. It is only those 56 SNP MPs that have put enough fire on my belly to watch it. Has that been useful? Yes, it has because I can see now the rotten crap that Westminster is and how useless most politicians in the main parties are. I can see that the opposition offered by Labour is a farce and that they are letting the Tories get away with anything. It is actually those 56 SNP MPs who are acting as the opposition. I have often thought that Labour and Tories may be in cahoots. This is the only way I can explain why the Labour party has not been hammering down the Tories day in day out about the election expenses fraud. No, instead, some right wing self-serving and resentful blairites using all manner of dirty tricks decide to bring the party to its knees so it cannot be in a position to fight the Tories at the most crucial time, how very convenient, no? I probably wouldn’t see any of this (or care) it it wasn’t for those 56 SNP MPs sitting at westminster that encouraged me to pay more attention. I thank them for opening my eyes.

            Also since those SNP MPs are sitting in Westminster I have seen with my own eyes the contempt the English MPs show for Scotland and my blood boils every time. This encourages me even more to seek independence for Scotland. I would be more accepting of the result in 2014 if it wasn’t for those SNP MPs.

            To be honest Alf, it takes a massive amount of courage, passion and commitment to sit in that chamber and witness all the crap, displays of cocky incompetence, deflecting ineptitude and monumental amount of contempt that many English MPs are showing for Scotland. It takes a very strong stomach to see that and yet continue fighting for your country even when you are being demeaned, ignored and treated with such contempt. I have a lot of respect for them for doing that and very little for the main UK political parties for allowing that to happen.

            No Alf, the easy thing to do for those MPs would be to walk away as you propose. They are showing to us that they are there to fight for our country not to run away using the back door like those coward unionist politicians-just-for-the-show are doing: magnificent examples of this are Cameron, Gove, Johnson, Farage and of course the labour chicken-coupers.

            It is not the MPs who have to walk away form a farce of a system that is breaking at the seams due to the weight of arrogance, ineptitude and contempt from the main unionist parties. It is the majority of the people of Scotland who has to be ready for that and I don’t think they are. You have to ensure first that they want to become independent and that requires indiref2.

            I think it is disgracefully unfair the way you demean the work of those 56 MPs, when to me, are the ones that are showing not just to Scotland but to all UK what politics and specially what opposition is about. It is not the SNP MPs failing Alf, it is the rest of the rotten system around Westminster. In what other so called democratic state you have a party catapulted to power by silencing most of the opposition with FPTP with pending investigations over electoral fraud claims that is getting away with having the citizens of this country and the the rest of EU hanging on the limbo for over 3 months and counting. Never mind the EU citizens living in the UK and the UK citizens abroad, those are just bargaining chips for Team May.

  8. Every word I agree with, we came from 30 to 45, that was a dress rehearsal!

    When the Scottish people are faced with labour telling them about pulling of resources and they know that means tory rule for the next unknown number of years, its obvious how Scots will vote.

    In the words of the Who:

    “We won’t get fooled again!”

  9. An interesting wee stushie going on here by the looks of it ,
    All SNP MPs resign on mass , well an interesting but probably futile act given that their hands have been tied by the 55% who voted “NO” by doing so would more or less signal UDI backed at present by 46- 47 % not a winning hand .
    The Labour party in Scotland were very clever and made sure in all the years they sent MPs south they managed to hide the fact that our votes ultimately dont count, never have, never will , We have a situation in this country probably unique in the western world where the elected government is opposed not just by opposition political parties but by all the media and what is becoming the government of another country whos views on governance are diametrically opposite from the majority of people who live here ,even though most of them were scared into making a honest choice by an industrial scale media onslaught ,Propaganda masquerading as news as most of us recall this went on for months ,daily every hour on the hour if this cycle is not broken and it might take some time we will have the same result “NO CIGAR” the only party that can achieve this for the time being is the SNP so sniping at them is just siding with all the other unionists it dosnt help anyone .


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