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I was recently asked, by a European public information bureau, to write an article entitled "A Day in the Life" as a Euro MP. This was not an easy task, given the one thing which is clear about a day in the life of an MEP – that no two days are the same!
MEPs typically spend the working week in Brussels three weeks per month, and have to spend one week at a plenary session in Strasbourg twelve times per year. Additionally we have a constituency to look after. Scotland is one constituency for the purpose of electing six MEPs. Note that independent EU Member States with similar populations to Scotland have at least twice as many!
A typical working day in Brussels for me would involve a breakfast meeting/briefing, such as one recently hosted by our Welsh colleague from Plaid Cymru on behalf of the farming industry. This kind of event is a good opportunity to promote quality produce to a wide audience as well as to discuss the very complex European regulations which cover farming and food production these days. Scotland has much to gain from promotion of quality meat from our naturally reared livestock for example.
Committee meetings normally run from 9-12.30 pm and then from 3-6.30 pm. I am currently a member of the Fisheries Committee, the Regional Development Committee and the Internal Market & Consumer Protection Committee. All of these now operate largely under the co-decision procedure which means that the input of MEPs - the only directly elected part of the EU's decision-making framework - ranks equally with the 27 member state governments in the Council of Ministers.
Recently the Fisheries Committee has been debating the first stages of a consultation process on reform of the Common Fisheries Policy. I have tabled a raft of amendments which call for a radical rethink of how our fisheries are managed. Even the European Commission accepts that the CFP has failed in its objectives, but there are a wide range of views on how to tackle the issue. Scotlandʼs influence in this vital debate would be significantly greater as a normal EU member state.
We have frequent visitors in Brussels representing NGOs, trade organisations, local government, academic institutions as well as individuals who wish to speak to MEPs, to exchange views on directives and regulations being considered in the European Parliament. Recently I have met with World Horse Welfare, Association of Funeral Directors, National Farmers Union of Scotland, Scottish Salmon Producers Organisation, Scottish Regional Transport bodies and offshore oil and gas representatives.
Within Scotland I travel extensively to meet with people and organisations to listen to their views. I also accept, as often as possible, invitations to speak and answer questions at primary schools, secondary schools and colleges who are studying the European Union and its complex democratic processes.
I find that young people are very interested in the future of Europe and Scotlandʼs position in the EU.
A significant amount of my time is for SNP events and campaigning, and I have enjoyed the recent round of AGMs and Adoption events around the country. With the UK General Election imminent we have another opportunity to make progress towards independence. Taking our message directly to voters on their doorsteps and in communities is the best means of winning votes for independence. Letʼs go for it!