Yesterday in Perth the SNP published our general election manifesto

Politics is about choices.

Governments, political parties and members of parliament use their judgement to choose which issues are their main priorities.

Even when we agree on the international challenges that need to be overcome, or the local problems that need to be solved, there is almost always a choice about what actions we take to tackle them.

And then, every so often, voters get to examine these priorities and plans and make their own decision about who they wish to represent them in parliament.

Yesterday in Perth the SNP published our general election manifesto, which set out our specific priorities and plans for the next session of parliament. In front of 1400 SNP members, guests and the national media, Nicola Sturgeon laid out in detail our principled, progressive and costed plan for improving the lives of everyone who lives in Scotland over the next five years.

In contrast to the muddled plans and confused messages from the heads of the other main parties, the First Minister stood front and centre of SNP candidates and Scottish Government Ministers and meticulously and clearly set out how SNP MPs would seek to end austerity, set fair rates of tax, protect and improve our public services and tackle inequality. The document also contained costed commitments which would deliver fair pensions for all, create jobs, tackle low pay and scrap unneeded and unwanted Trident nuclear weapons. At the same time, she pledged that a vote for the SNP on June 8th would be a vote to protect Scotland’s place in the single market, deliver more powers for Scotland’s parliament, and to ensure that, at the end of the Brexit process, and when the final terms of the deal are known, Scotland should have a real choice about our future path.

This manifesto stands in contrast to the choices made by Labour and the Tories. While nobody has the slightest idea of the guiding principles behind the Labour Party in Scotland any more, Theresa May’s right-wing manifesto was the first in modern political history to be abandoned before a vote was even cast following her u-turn on the disgraceful Dementia Tax. 

The choice facing voters in Scotland has crystallised following the publication of each of the main party’s manifestos. Now, more than ever, we need strong SNP voices at Westminster to stand up for Scotland, strengthen Scotland’s hand in the Brexit negotiations to come and protect Scotland’s right to make its own decisions about our future.

SNP MPs will always stand up for fair pensions, while Tory MPs will veto a fair deal for WASPI women and end the triple-lock which protects the value of pensions over time.

Every SNP MP elected next week will give their all to protect our public services and stand up for a fair pay deal for public servants, while the Tories have pledged to continue their damaging cuts to public spending which will cost Scotland 2.9 billion pounds between 2010 and 2020.

Each SNP representative returned to Westminster means another MP who will fight to reverse cuts to social security payments for disabled people, and to end the cap on Child Tax Credits which restricts payments to the first two children in any family, regardless of family circumstances.

Choosing to cast your vote for the SNP next Thursday is a choice to support a plan to end Tory cuts, protect Scottish jobs, and make Scotland’s voice heard loud and clear at the Brexit negotiations.
A vote for your local SNP candidate is a vote to put fairness and opportunity at the heart of Westminster’s agenda, a vote for an outward-looking, progressive country, not for implementing Nigel Farage’s vision for an insular, little Britain.
Use your vote to strengthen Scotland's hand, not Theresa May's. Remember what damage a Tory government has already done with a slim majority in the House of Commons, and imagine what Theresa May would do with an increased number of MP’s under her control.

I’ve spoken to many voters over the past few weeks who are genuinely petrified at the prospect of an unfettered Tory government. They’re scared for the poor and the vulnerable. They’re scared for our environment, and our place in the world. They’re scared for their jobs and the future of our social security safety net.

Next week, you can help stop Theresa May in her tracks and make a positive choice about Scotland’s future.

Choose to use your vote on June 8th.

Choose to vote for a party and a local MP who will stand up for you, your family and your community here and at Westminster.

Choose the SNP.

Through the emotional numbness of today, let’s remember to hold your children, nieces, nephews, and grandchildren close

In The National yesterday I wrote about the aftermath of the atrocity in Manchester from a parent's perspective.

In The National yesterday I wrote about the aftermath of the atrocity in Manchester from a parent's perspective.

Becoming a parent is an emotional experience.                        

Being left alone, unsupervised, with this tiny little person for the first time is one many parents will remember forever. Parenthood arrives with a swirl of emotions, from joy and overwhelming love, to the brief, fleeting moments of fear that this ultimate responsibility brings.

As parents, we grow with our children. We learn together, we share their triumphs and challenges together.

We tackle each milestone, however large or small, in their lives together. 

There are many challenges of parenthood. One is to raise your children safely and under your protection, knowing that one day you’ll have to let them to step freely into the world as responsible adults.

So, the day our children first ask if they can go out alone to watch a concert or attend a big event is a huge moment for us all - a moment of clashing and contrasting emotions.

We all remember the excitement of our own first concert or gig. The hours spent plotting and planning with our friends from weeks in advance. Intricately detailing our travel plans.  Agreeing in advance the clothes we’ll all wear as we attempt to strike the perfect balance between fitting in and standing out. We remember the wave of excitement when the tickets arrived, the chatter in the car and bus as you finally embark, and the opening chords of the act’s first song before the adoring audience.

For most of us it’s landmark, being free to sing, dance and even scream at our idols in a magical moment that we’ll remember forever.

But, sadly, each of those children who went to watch their idol in Manchester on Monday evening will have such different, tragic, memories.  

As a parent of two young Ariana Grande fans, as I sat and watched the horrific event of Monday night’s events unfold on TV, I felt that familiar wave of fear wash over me, but I couldn’t possibly even begin to imagine the anguish of the parents I watched as they were put in the dreadful positon of having to make public pleas for information, any information, on their missing loved ones. The same parents, whose love allowed them to grant permission for their children to grow and find their feet in the world, outside the safety of their arms. Watching them from hundreds of miles away was almost too hard to bear. I had no words.

So, when our children come to us tomorrow and ask us for the same opportunities, how should we respond, now this boundless evil has been revealed to the world? How can we let go of our loved ones after witnessing these the lengths to which these barbaric monsters will go? How can we overcome the fear that we all have of letting go?

I suppose that we must seek some solace from the that from the very worst of circumstances, the very best of humanity shone through.

While the innocents sought cover, police officers, ambulance crews and rescue workers ran towards the danger, putting their safety on the line, as they always do, to help and protect strangers. Nurses and doctors rushed to the scene. Bystanders opened their doors to those in need, and taxi drivers ferried the those caught up in the tragedy to safety.

In the face of unspeakable evil, men and women, young and old, those of all faiths and none came together in an act of collective humanity. It is this solidarity, this network of love, which will defeat the hatefulness at the root of this criminal, terrorist act.

Over the days and weeks ahead, our job as parents and carers will continue. We need to provide love and reassurance, even though we have questions ourselves. We need to be open and honest, even though we want to curl up with our arms around our children and never let go. Despite all our natural instincts, we need to continue to prepare them for the life that lies ahead, not hide them away from the outside world, wrapped in cotton wool.

Through the emotional numbness of today, let’s remember to continue to hold your children, nieces, nephews, and grandchildren close. Show them the love which surrounds them, and the hope that you have, not only for them, but also the world around us.

And let’s do our best equip them with the tools we all need for hope to conquer hate, and to build a better, more peaceful world for us all, today and into the future.

We need to turn up the pressure on Theresa May's policies

Cathy Mohan is the name of the woman who burst Theresa May’s bubble earlier this week.

For weeks now, the Tory leader has been running scared from public scrutiny. She’s refused to take part in TV debates with other political leaders, the public have been excluded from her campaign events and according to some journalists she’s even refused to answer questions from other members of the media without them being vetted in advance. On Monday Cathy showed us all why.

In a devastatingly effective but simple way, Cathy shamed the hosts of the Sunday morning political shows, whose interrogation of Theresa May’s policies has been as soft as their on-set sofas. In sharp contrast, Cathy was direct. Cathy was personal. Cathy was right.


Theresa May was all at sea. She had nothing to say about the horrendous personal and social impact of her government’s record to date. She floundered under pressure and crumbled to a puddle of platitudes when presented with the hard, first person-evidence of the effect of her own policies.

This was a case of the Tories versus the real world, and the real world won.

Theresa May is happy to hide behind the platitudes of a soundbite in a secure location, but when presented with someone who has faced the brunt of tory policies, she had absolutely nothing to say. There was nothing that could protect her from the truth.

Because the truth is, successive Tory governments have punished the vulnerable and preyed on the weak. The truth is that their path towards the most extreme Brexit deal possible, is already hurting our economy, and will cost thousands of jobs if pushed to a conclusion. But the scariest truth is, they’ve only just started. If they’ve manged to do so much damage with a wafer-thin majority in the House of Commons, imagine the harm they will do if they’re re-elected with a super-majority on the 8th June.

While speaking to voters in Almondbank outside Perth on Monday evening, one woman who had never voted for the SNP put it to me in stark terms. She was going to lend me her vote in this general election because the prospect of a Tory majority absolutely “petrified” her. She was genuinely scared at the prospect of another five years under an unfettered, Tory Government who continue to lurch to the right. She was worried for her children, for her community and for the vulnerable in our society.

With a twelve-seat majority after the 2015 election, the Tories have punished Cathy and thousands like her by cutting the support she had previously relied upon thanks to our safety net of social security. It’s there to make sure that every one of us has financial protection when we need it. I’ve spoken to dozens of my own disabled constituents who, like her, have financially lost out though the change from Disability Living Allowance to Personal Independence Payments. This support was vital to allow them to mitigate their personal circumstances and live as full and normal a life as possible. Instead they’ve been forced to hand back the keys to their mobility cars.

At the same time, Theresa May and her MPs have done absolutely nothing to stop the rise in the use of foodbanks, abandoned child refugees to their fate and started to use EU nationals; our friends, neighbours and work colleagues, as bargaining chips in the Brexit negotiations.

This callous raft of policies will pale into insignificance if Labour’s disintegration south of the border means that the Tories are returned with a large majority. In this, it’s now clear that only the SNP can prevent them from a clean sweep of parliamentary seats, and provide both a proper opposition in parliament and a level of protection for Cathy and others like her.

Theresa May has said called this election to strengthen her hand.

It’s the poor, the weak, the sick and the vulnerable who would be crushed if she takes a vice like grip on parliament.

Instead we must use this election as an opportunity to listen to Cathy and those like her about the potential impact of another Tory majority, and use this against them to strengthen Scotland's hand. We need to put the brakes on a right-wing Tory Government, stop the negotiations to deliver an extreme Brexit in their tracks and strengthen the right to have Scotland's future back in Scotland's hands.

Politics is about people.

Now that Cathy’s personal intervention has shattered the illusion that this election is a policy free zone, we need to turn up the pressure on Theresa May and her Scottish cronies as we crystallise the decision that voters in Scotland must make on June 8th.

Tasmina visits Riding for the Disabled in Dollar

Tasmina visits Riding for the Disabled in Dollar

Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh, the SNP’s Candidate for Ochil and South Perthshire, visited Riding for the Disabled Association’s new purpose built facility in Clackmannanshire on Friday.

RDA as a charity has been providing life-changing experiences for over 40 years to children with mental and physical disabilities, offering therapeutic treatment through horse and pony riding. The RDA Forth Valley Group has just recently moved to Wellhall farm near Dollar, with freshly expanded facilities for the children to enjoy the horses, including paddocks and paths for longer rides, as well as space for the children to learn about grooming and caring for the animals.

Tasmina said:

“It’s wonderful to see the positive impact that riding and caring for horses can have on children with disabilities. The work RDA is doing here in Clackmannanshire is so important. It was fascinating to hear about the therapies offered to the children, and to meet with staff and volunteers providing such a valuable service.  The new facilities are excellent, with beautiful countryside for the children to explore in a safe and enjoyable environment. RDA are always looking for more funding and volunteers to join, so please get in touch – more information can be found at their Forth Valley Facebook page.”

Tasmina congratulates The Wee County Mens Shed on changing lives for the better

Tasmina congratulates The Wee County Mens Shed on changing lives for the better
As part of efforts to celebrate and promote the benefits of the growing Men's Shed movement in Scotland and beyond, Tasmina dropped by to catch up with friends at The Wee County Men’s Shed near Fishcross on Friday this week (12th May). 
The Clackmannan ‘shedders’ welcomed the SNP Candidate for Ochil and South Perthshire for a catch up and discussion on election news and SNP policy, including discussions on protecting pensions, social security for disabled people and how to promote mental health issues in the comunity.
Following the event, Tasmina said: 
"I'm so pleased that the Mens Shed phenomenon has received such positive media attention this week. The Wee County Mens Shed is a real force for good and a warm and welcoming place to visit, so I was delighted to accept their invitation to return to them during the election campaign so they can grill me on the issues at important stake for them and their families. 
"The shedders come from all walks of life - it's always interesting to hear their stories, what they've done in their lives and what they get from being part of the group, I always have a great time in their company."

Tasmina slams Tories over "Rape Clause" vote


Ochil and South Perthshire MP Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh, has today welcomed the cross party vote in the Scottish Parliament earlier this week against the Tory Government’s introduction of a two child cap for tax credit and the infamous Rape Clause.

Commenting on this week's debate and vote, Ms Ahmed-Sheikh said:

“I absolutely welcome the political unity that we’ve seen across the Scottish Parliament as they debated this serious and sensitive issue today. It was right that the vast majority of MSPs joined together to stand against the rape clause, which is an abhorrent and disgusting policy. It is deeply disappointing that the tories did not join this consensus, and instead chose to vote in favour of this discredited position.

“Victims of sexual violence should not be treated in this way, nor should children be financially punished through no fault of their own.

“This week's vote shows how isolated and out of touch the tories are with public opinion. This issue will continue to outrage voters across Ochil and South Perthshire until the tories see sense and reverse their positon.”

Tories fail to do their work on post-Brexit trade for Scotland

The SNP’s International Trade spokesperson has criticised the UK government for a “dereliction of duty” after it was revealed that the Scotland Office had failed to carry out an assessment on the impact of Brexit on Scotland’s trade with the EU.

Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh MP warned that the lack of an assessment and the minister’s response let slip the mask of a Tory government that will "railroad through Parliament the hardest of Brexits at the expense of Scotland’s industries and economy.

During the final Exiting the EU questions session in the House of Commons today, Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh MP asked David Jones, the minister for Exiting the EU, what assessment his department had carried out on the impact of Brexit on Scotland’s trade or whether it was simply a “fingers-crossed approach.”

It follows a response received by the SNP MP to a written question to the Secretary of State for Scotland, David Mundell, where he failed to confirm that any assessment had been carried out on the impact on Scotland's trading relationships.

The minister for Exiting the EU, responded by saying, “I’m surprised to hear that.”

Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh MP, the SNP’s International Trade spokesperson, said:

“The UK government’s failure to carry out an assessment on what the impact of a hard Tory Brexit will have on Scotland’s trade with the EU is nothing short of a dereliction of duty.

“Not only has this Tory government failed Scotland’s key industries by failing to carry out an assessment, the mask has also slipped on a government that will railroad through Parliament the hardest of Brexits at the expense of Scotland’s industries and economy and regardless of its impact or damage to our economy.

“It has become clear that only SNP MPs will offer an effective opposition to a right wing Tory government, and it is important now more than ever that this general election sends a strong message and returns an opposition that prevents an unfettered Tory government."

The Scotland Office has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (71978):


To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland, what assessment his Department has made of the effect on Scotland's trade with EU countries of the UK leaving the EU. (71978)

Tabled on: 25 April 2017


David Mundell:

We are determined to get the best deal for Scotland and the whole of the UK as we negotiate our exit from the EU.

Domestically, it is vital that we maintain the integrity of our own UK single market, which is worth over four times more to Scotland than its trade with the rest of the EU.

In Europe, the Government seeks to secure the freest and most frictionless trade possible in goods and services between the UK and the EU and will pursue a new strategic partnership with the EU, including an ambitious and comprehensive Free Trade Agreement and a new customs agreement.

Around the rest of the world, without the need to reflect the positions of the EU27, an independent trade policy gives us the opportunity to strike deals better suited to the UK and to make quicker progress with new partners, as well as those where EU negotiations have stalled.

We will seize the opportunity Brexit offers not just to form a new partnership with Europe, but to build a stronger, fairer, more Global Britain too.


My column in today's Perthshire Advertiser

My column in today's Perthshire Advertiser

It’s just a few months since Theresa May gave the country her word that there would be no snap election. It’s also a matter of weeks since her official spokesperson confirmed this stance. Fast forward to 18th April and we witness one of the most stunning U-turns in recent political history as the Prime Minister breaks yet another promise to the electorate.

We now face a General Election in just 48 days.  The Tories see this election as an opportunity to hammer home their right wing agenda of further austerity and a damaging hard Brexit. Under the guise of promising stability and unity, Theresa May has put the interests of her party ahead those of our country, with the hope of gaining a significant majority and crushing dissent from the other parties, or “saboteurs” to use the Prime Minister’s loaded language.

This election will also be about trust. In recent months we’ve seen distressing cuts in disability benefits penalising the most vulnerable in our society, plus an appalling rape clause forcing women to relive traumatic events in order to fill in eight pages of forms to gain just over £13 a week to support their third child. Add to the mix the gaining momentum on a hard Brexit and it would be fair to say that this is a not a vision that represents the views of the Scottish people. In 2015 and then again in 2016 the Scottish people voted decisively to stay in the EU and voted decisively to turn their backs on biting Tory austerity and damage to our public services. In Westminster the SNP have provided a strong opposition to fight for the wishes of the Scottish people, to protect Scotland’s interests increasingly ignored or regarded as insignificant by the Tories as they ride rough shod towards their right-wing vision.

The people of Scotland once again face a choice on our future. Your vote on June 8th will give you the opportunity to reject the Tories narrow, divisive agenda, for a more open, inclusive and civic-minded society. Nicola Sturgeon announced this week that “we intend to win this election in Scotland and for Scotland”. In the next coming weeks, with my colleagues, we’ll all be working hard to retain the trust of the people of Scotland and listen to your concerns.  I look forward to seeking re-election on a positive platform to stand up for Scotland and to continue to fight for the best interests of the people of Ochil and South Perthshire. 

Scotland must have a choice over our future

Local SNP parliamentarians Keith Brown MSP and Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh MP have said that it is absolutely correct and appropriate for the people of Scotland to be offered a choice, once the options become clear, between a Tory hard Brexit and becoming an independent country, after the First Minister Nicola Sturgeon confirmed plans to seek parliamentary approval to begin discussions with the UK government to bring forward an independence vote.

Ahead of the UK government’s triggering of Article 50 and the beginning of the process of leaving the EU, the First Minister said that the Westminster government has been guilty of complete intransigence in the face of Scottish Government attempts to find a compromise – and has continually acted against the best interests of Scotland, not least by ruling out membership of the single market without consulting the Scottish Government.

The MSP and MP have has said that it has become clear that the UK government has no intention of respecting Scotland’s 62% vote to remain in the EU.

Commenting, Keith Brown MSP said: “Throughout the entire Brexit process to date, the Scottish Government has been consistent in its pursuit of a compromise with the UK government, putting forward substantial proposals for Scotland to remain in the single market – yet the UK government has rejected these and is pursuing an ever harder line.

“It is within this context, with the UK government intent on pursuing a damaging hard Brexit and set to trigger Article 50 without communicating with the devolved governments, that it has become ever clearer that the people of Scotland must be offered a choice over our future.

Tasmina Ahmed-SheikhMP said “The SNP will always stand up for Scotland’s interests and we are intent on protecting Scotland’s place in the single market. The people of Scotland deserve to choose,  once the terms of Brexit are clear and before it is too late to decide our own path, honouring the manifesto pledge that we were elected on last year.

 “Scotland now stands at a crossroads, and we cannot drift along for two years hoping for the best.  We face the real prospect of right-wing Tory governments until at least 2030 and being dragged out of the EU and Single Market with all the damage to our economy and society that will cause.”

Joint statement from Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh MP and Keith Brown MSP following the Scottish Defence League protest in Alloa

Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh MP and Keith Brown MSP have issued a joint statement following the Scottish Defence League protest in Alloa on Saturday.

The local parliamentarians said: 

“Our country has a long history of welcoming refugees and asylum seekers from all over the world and the communities of Clackmannanshire have always played their part.

“We know that the vast majority of people in Clackmannanshire did not want to see this protest take place which is why in the lead up to Saturday’s demonstration by the SDL in Alloa town centre, we had both taken the view that we did not want to encourage any publicity for this hateful event.  However, following the disgusting and intolerant display on Alloa High Street by an assortment of far right protesters who had to be bussed in from outside Clackmannanshire to spread their divisive message, we would like to put our views on the record.

“In the lead up to the protest we have both been in contact with Police Scotland to ensure that all measures were in place to protect public safety. We’d like to thank the police for their diligence and hard work in keeping our streets safe.


“We also acknowledge the impact the protest will have had on our local economy and many of the businesses in Alloa town centre on what is their busiest day of the week.

“Over the past year we have been encouraged by the warm welcome that the people of Clackmannanshire have given to the refugee families who fled their homes to seek safety from the conflict raging on their doorstep, and have found a new home here in Clackmannanshire.

“There is no doubt that the events of Saturday will have been distressing for the refugees who have already gone through so much and we now all have a part to play in reassuring them that they remain welcome in our community.” 




Ochil and South Perthshire MP Tasmina MP has called for the Chancellor of the Exchequer to rethink his plans to raise National Insurance Contributions on people who are self-employed, and has highlighted the impact it will have on the local economy in smaller communities across South Perthshire.

The local MP’s call follows the publication of a new report by the Federation of Small Business, which shows that small rural communities will be particularly hit by the changes. The report shows that local communities with a high percentage of self-employed workers will be hit hardest, and that the following towns in Ochil and South Perthshire have more than 10 percent of their population registered at self-employed:

Comrie                   14.19% of workforce are self-employed

Abernethy            11.82%                 

Milnathort            11.51%

Auchterarder       11.30%

Ms Ahmed-Sheikh said:

“This is nothing short of a tax on ambition. The UK government should be fostering a spirit of entrepreneurship and backing small local businesses, not treating them like a cash cow to cover for another austerity budget and cuts in tax for corporate businesses.

“The Chancellor’s planned tax hike on national insurance is bad news for the self-employed, but I’m particularly concerned that these plans will have a disproportionate impact on some of South Perthshire’s smaller and more rural communities.”

“This new report by the FSB shows that Comrie, Abernethy, Milnathort and Auchterarder are just some of the communities in Scotland where over ten percent of the local workforce is self-employed. I’m concerned that these proposed changes will have a knock on impact on local communities, shops and services, and so that’s why I’ll be opposing them at every turn.

"What the tories seem to have forgotten is that many self-employed people don’t currently enjoy the same guarantees on pensions and sick leave that the majority of the workforce has. That’s why tax on the self-employed has traditionally been lower than on employees. 

“I’ll be back at Westminster next week to make the case to protect self-employed people in South Perthshire from this unfair tory tax grab.”

Tasmina calls for rethink on tory cash grab on local self-employed

Tasmina calls for rethink on tory cash grab on local self-employed

Ochil and South Perthshire MP Tasmina MP has called for the Chancellor of the Exchequer to rethink his plans to raise National Insurance Contributions on people who are self-employed, and has highlighted the impact it will have on the local economy.

The plans, which were announced in the Budget on Wednesday, would mean that a self-employed worker earning £20000 would be required to pay around £250 a year extra, hampering entrepreneurship.

Ms Ahmed-Sheikh Said:

“The Chancellor’s planned tax hike on national insurance will hit self-employed workers hard and I am concerned that these plans will have a particularly severe impact on some of South Perthshire and Clackmannanshire’s smaller and more rural communities.”.

“This is a tax on ambition. Amid the utter chaos of a hard Tory Brexit, an increase in National Insurance Contributions threatens to undermine and deter the type of entrepreneurial behaviour that we should be seeking to encourage.

"Some self-employed workers in the UK, particularly those on low incomes, do not always enjoy the same guarantees as those in employment, such as pensions and sick leave. The UK Government has a poor track record on workers’ protection and rights, and it is vital that we seek every option to ensure that self-employed workers are fully protected. 

“In recent weeks the Tories have been arguing for tax breaks for the wealthiest in Scotland, all the while storing up a tax hike on the self-employed and planning to break their own manifesto commitments.

“The Tories arguments on taxation in Scotland have been completely discredited

“The SNP in government has protected incomes with a freeze in income tax rates while the Tories have just hiked up National Insurance without thinking through the consequences.”

“I’ll be back at Westminster next week to make the case to protect self-employed people in Clacks, Perthshire and Strathearn from this unfair tory tax grab.”