GETTING back into the European Union is mission-critical – both for Scotland’s independence and for delivering a better future for the people of Scotland.

Last Friday saw the Scottish Government publish the seventh paper in its Building a New Scotland series. For me, personally, it is also the one I have been most excited about – An Independent Scotland in the EU.

I have never shied away from my firm belief that Scotland’s best future lies with being an independent member state in the European Union. When I was elected as an MEP in 2004, I was joined by former professors during my studies at the College of Europe in the European Parliament.

Many of them had been tireless advocates not only for national self-determination but also membership of an institution that was the antithesis to the centrally-controlled politburos of previous Communist regimes in eastern and central Europe. That year of my election saw the largest single enlargement of the EU, bringing in 10 new member states with a combined population of almost 75 million people.

Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Czechia, Hungary, Slovakia, Slovenia, Cyprus and Malta – all became part of the European project because they knew that was the route to prosperity, democracy and empowerment for their citizens. So it will be for Scotland.

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After all, the European Union is the complete opposite of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

In the EU, sovereignty is pooled together. In the UK, sovereignty is centralised to here-today, gone-tomorrow ministers in London.

In the EU, structural funds help to raise up communities facing challenges beyond their means. In the UK, levelling-up is a postcode lottery of development.

In Europe, smaller states have a seat at the table, their views heard, and have a meaningful impact on policy affecting the lives of nearly 500 million citizens. In the UK, the voices of those in Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and many of the regions of England are simply ignored or dismissed.

If you have not already done so I would encourage you to read the paper in its entirety. It sets the scene for how Brexit was forced on us without our consent and how it accelerated the long-term trends of decline that the UK is experiencing.

It neatly encapsulates the case for why EU membership will help you in your day-to-day life, whether it be lower food costs, less Brexit bureaucracy for your business or more opportunities to live, love, travel, work and study across our shared continent.

The paper also covers why the EU would want Scotland to be a member in its own right. Our vast energy resources will help its own just transition as well as rebalance our collective energy security away from authoritarian regimes. Our universities as well as our research and development sectors are amongst the best in the world, offering excellent opportunities for collaborative research through Horizon Europe and Erasmus+.

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While our diverse and vibrant culture is one that is recognisable the world over, our landscape some of the most scenic, and our people always willing to welcome others.

Crucially, this paper also outlines the accession process we will go through to become the newest member of the EU.

It is a well-trodden path of application, consideration and assistance from the EU to meet the Copenhagen Criteria and the chapters of the acquis communautaire, the cumulative body of EU Law.

It gives further indications of what the border with the rest of the UK will be like, such as membership of the Common Travel Area and operating within the framework of the EU-UK trading relationship.

It also gives indications on currency and the route we will be taking to meet the EU’s criteria of membership.

Next year marks 10 years since the independence referendum. It also marks 20 years since that historic enlargement of many post-communist European countries, as well as Cyprus and Malta, states smaller than Scotland and now punching above their weight in the world through the EU.

As the UK continues its decline on the shipwreck that is HMS Brexit, we can see the lighthouse of Europe leading us to a safer harbour – and a much brighter future for us all in Europe.

This paper will be a key part of our prospectus – let’s get on with presenting it to the people of Scotland and our friends in Europe.