Much of the talk in the meeting rooms and corridors of Strasbourg and Brussels is currently focused on the upcoming "Brexit" referendum.

If David Cameron can secure an agreement from the 27 other Member States at the next European Council 'exceptional' summit on 18 and 19 February he is widely expected to hold a referendum in the summer of this year. The timing is contingent on the willingness of European leaders, and David Cameron too, to negotiate a compromise deal by February. Given the current mood, this does not seem to be a certainty.

As the leader of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE) and former Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt loudly emphasised in a recent Strasbourg plenary, the European Council's priorities are out of touch. Considering that 1 million refugees are currently in the EU and only 290 officially relocated, "it seems to me that it is far more important to tackle this than to start a discussion of Brexit" next month at the Council's summit.

But Cameron does plan some horse-trading with other EU Member States in an attempt to win their backing for a deal. The Ministry of Defence announced that it would permanently station 1,000 military personnel in Poland and Cameron has recently visited the Czech Republic in a last-ditch attempt to bilaterally negotiate a deal with the Government there.

Yet despite any potential success on the continent, the Prime Minister's usual support base from businesses in the City is even dwindling, as top City firms are increasingly showing their support for the EU, whether based on the status quo or a reform deal. And as the Tories continue to bicker and splinter at Westminster, the SNP is resolute in keeping the benefits to Scotland which arise from membership of the European Union.

For Scotland, the positives of our membership are multi-faceted. 46% of our international trade has been with our EU partners since 2013 and all of our 4,600 business sites owned by non-UK European companies had a huge combined turnover of £42.1 billion adding £15.8 billion in Gross Value Added to the Scottish economy. More students from Scotland take part in the ERASMUS scheme than anywhere else in the UK. And of course, our vital agricultural industries continue to be protected through EU legislation. Scotland's rural economy continues to gain crucial financial support from the estimated €580 million a year in direct payments from the Common Agricultural Policy.

In advance of the EU referendum, the next big challenge is already on the horizon, with the elections to the Scottish Parliament in May. These elections must be our absolute priority from now until May, and our target is obvious. We must aim to break the electoral system once again by winning re-election of the SNP Government with an outright majority. In our campaign plans we cannot take success for granted. We must knock the doors and earn the support of voters. With Party membership still on a high, this time we have a larger pool of potential active campaigners. Let us reach out to encourage more members to become active, and to knock the doors in every community across Scotland with the message "Both Votes SNP!"

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