Bren­dan O’Hara, MP for Ar­gyll and Bute

The Oban Times - - News -

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.

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