Brendan O’Hara, MP for Argyll and Bute
JUST weeks after Scotland went to the polls to elect the new government, we are being asked to vote again on June 23 when we decide whether we should remain part of the European Union.
While everyone understands how important those Scottish Parliament elections were for the future of our schools, our hospitals and our public services, I worry that the importance of the European Union to our everyday lives gets overlooked.
For the past 70 years, the EU has delivered peace and prosperity to a continent traditionally at loggerheads, and all too frequently at war with itself.
I believe that membership of the EU has made us wealthier, healthier and greener. Our society is fairer and our economy stronger.
The EU benefits business, large and small, giving them access to shared markets and flows of trade, investment and labour. Exports to the EU make up around 44 per cent of total exports.
It’s good for the food and drink sector and important for Scotland and Argyll and Bute. We can access cheaper and better- quality goods.
Membership of the EU has made us safer. We have established close relationships with our EU partners working and adapting to the threats faced by the modern world. If the UK chooses to leave the EU, we risk losing access to European arrest warrants, the European criminal records system and EU-Interpol co- operation, vital for fighting terrorism and other crimes.
Membership of the EU has made us greener. Tackling climate change is bigger than one member state so we have to see the wider picture of our environment.
Membership of the European Union has made us fairer. Improved working conditions via shared regulations such as the Working Time Directive preventing employers obliging their workforce to work excessively long hours, with implications for health and safety. EU legislation has also helped with non- discrimination and parental rights which have benefited so many families.
In terms of Scotland’s role in the EU, we want to grow our influence to benefit Scottish jobs, businesses, our economy and our society. Tourism is vital to Scotland with overseas visitors spending £1.8 billion in 2014 – around £900 million of which was from visitors from within Europe.
I would never argue that the EU is perfect – far from it. Reforms are needed but we stand to lose far more by exiting now than we’d gain by cutting us off from the rest of the continent. Ultimately, on June 23 you will have to decide where we go from here.
I will be voting to remain because I’m convinced that, despite its faults, the EU is the best way to ensure we are wealthier, healthier, greener, fairer and safer.