​Don’t write off SNP’s election chances - Tommy Sheppard

​Last week I was chosen by local members of Edinburgh East and Musselburgh SNP to be their candidate in next year’s general election. It’s a great honour. For me, that election cannot come soon enough.
Tommy Sheppard MPTommy Sheppard MP
Tommy Sheppard MP

But I am under no illusions that it will be easy to keep the job I’ve been doing for the last eight and a half years. The coming election will be the biggest challenge the SNP has faced in a long time. It will be a hard fight, but one I am determined to win.

As I write this the votes are yet to be counted in the Rutherglen and Hamilton West by-election. You’ll know the result now. And I would be astonished if Labour did not win. It used to be one of their safest seats.

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The incumbent MP, elected under the SNP banner, disgraced herself and was effectively sacked by her own constituents. If Labour couldn’t win in these circumstances, they really ought to give up.

First Minister Humza Yousaf, joins SNP candidate for the Rutherglen and Hamilton West by-election, Katy Loudon. Picture: John DevlinFirst Minister Humza Yousaf, joins SNP candidate for the Rutherglen and Hamilton West by-election, Katy Loudon. Picture: John Devlin
First Minister Humza Yousaf, joins SNP candidate for the Rutherglen and Hamilton West by-election, Katy Loudon. Picture: John Devlin

But don’t be too quick to write off the SNP in places like this. I know from having spoken to over 150 people in Rutherglen that there is still strong support for the party.

Of course, some are fed up and disillusioned. They read of the resignations and enquiries. They see a party arguing with itself and they question whether it can achieve the change it seeks.

In part this is the consequence of the refusal of the Tories to respect the wishes of the Scottish electorate. Not one, but three mandates have been ignored as the Tories just say no. It wears people down. It saps their confidence. It destroys their self-belief. That’s what it is intended to do.

In some ways we have brought these problems upon ourselves – or at least made them worse. But we are rebuilding now. We have a new leader, a new CEO, and this month’s conference will allow us to refresh our message as we agree our strategy for the election.

Despite all the political turmoil, the arguments for Scotland becoming an independent country have never been more compelling. Over the last few years many more people have realised that the powers that come with independence are exactly what we need to tackle the cost-of-living crisis and the climate emergency.

Now more than ever we will need to press that case and demonstrate that this is not some abstract debate about the constitution but a matter of real changes here and now.

This country is blessed with abundant natural resources, yet too many of our citizens live and die in poverty. Lives unfulfilled. Potential wasted. Only by taking control of our own affairs can we ensure our wealth is marshalled for the common good and not global corporations.

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Across the UK voters are being offered a choice between two sad and uninspiring options. The sickening right-wing populism of the Tories on the one hand and the pathetic lack of ambition of Sir Keir Starmer’s hollowed out Labour Party on the other.

Thankfully, Scotland and Edinburgh have an alternative. We can be better. We can demand more from a new UK government than Labour wants to give us. And we can maintain our journey to self-government. That is why this election is so important.

Bring it on.

Tommy Sheppard is MP for Edinburgh East and SNP constitutional affairs spokesperson

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