The European elections in May give voters in the 28 member states of the European Union the chance to influence the future political development of the EU, electing 751 Members of the European Parliament to represent their interests for the next five years. Each member state is free to determine its own electoral arrangements, and choose a polling day, during the four-day election period between 22 and 25 May 2014. Scotland is currently one of 12 electoral areas designated by the UK government, and on Thursday 22 May voters in Scotland will elect 6 of the UK’s 73 MEPs. The results from all 28 member states will begin to be announced during the evening of Sunday 25 May. The European Parliament represents over 500 million citizens in 28 member states. The seats are allocated among the various states, by the EU treaties, on the basis of 'degressive proportionality', meaning countries with larger populations have more seats than smaller ones but the latter have more seats than strict proportionality would imply. The minimum number of MEPs a member state can have under this system is 6, and member states with the same populations as Scotland will be electing 13 MEPs in May. The new political majority that emerges from the elections will shape European legislation over the next five years in areas from the single market to civil liberties. The Parliament - the only directly elected EU institution - is now a very important part of the complex European decision-making system. With the power of co-decision applying to most of their work, MEPs have an equal say with member state governments on nearly all EU laws. This year, by voting Yes to independence in the referendum on September 18th, Scotland’s voters can allow this country to make the transition to normal status in the EU, to be a member state with the absolute right to a seat, a say, and a vote at the top table among governments. Scotland, with MEPs working constructively in tandem with an independent Scottish Government, would find EU membership a much more satisfactory experience. After independence, Scotland will become an equal in a club with 28 other members. SNP experiences in the EU institutions inform us that Scottish arguments will be listened to and evaluated on the basis of their merit; coalitions will be formed on specific issues and compromises will be reached. At present Scotland’s views in the Council of Ministers are only heard if they happen to coincide with those of the UK government. Throughout its evolution the EU has adapted to new circumstances and acted pragmatically. The EU will adapt to ensure that respect for democracy and the rule of law will be upheld. The respect for democracy and the rule of law has been enshrined in the Edinburgh Agreement signed by the Scottish and UK governments. With both parties committed to cooperating constructively after the vote, I am certain that our EU partners will be similarly minded. All we have to do is vote Yes, and make it happen!

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