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As the days count down towards 23rd June, the upcoming referendum on the UK's membership of the European Union remains the main topic of conversation for many in the corridors of the European Parliament, and elsewhere around Brussels.
The EU is not a threat but a fantastic opportunity for Scotland. It has underpinned peace in Europe, it allows us to generate jobs through free trade with our closest neighbours. The EU is not only value for money in terms of trade and commerce but, far more than this, it is a positive influence on the lives of individual Scots.
The building blocks which make up the EU are the 28 Member States. The EU is constantly evolving, in response to the wishes of the Member States, seeking to meet the needs and aspirations of citizens. Most EU legislation requires a majority of the Member State governments plus a majority in the European Parliament to agree to every detail.
As an EU citizen in Scotland you are legally guaranteed maternity and parental leave in addition to a number of other rights: workplace rights including paid annual leave, sickness rights, equal pay, and healthcare on holiday. We may not realise how important such rights are but the EU guarantees our rights from the workplace to your holiday destination.
MEPs recently showed their approval for mandatory country of origin labelling of meat and milk, in a non-binding resolution. For Scottish consumers, mandatory labelling should boost confidence in food products by making the food supply chain more transparent. For Scottish producers, this means that our milk, daily and meat produce could be marketed more effectively as labelling would improve the quality of information.
Furthermore, the EU's geographical indication for food products also gives branded protection to famous Scottish produce across Europe including Scotch Beef and Lamb, Stornoway Black Pudding and Arbroath Smokies.
I also welcomed a strong traceability system for all fishery products sold in EU restaurants and shops to help prevent cases of mislabelling. Again, this will boost consumer confidence and contribute to the significant degree of mislabelling of fish products ending up on the EU market. From landing to consumption, a sound EU labelling policy for fisheries products will enhance credibility and transparency, which in turn will boost quality fish produced by fishermen across the EU, including in Scotland. In 2014 alone, Scotland exported £46 million of seafood to other EU countries and the single market is therefore of crucial importance to Scotland's seafood industry.
Yet sustainable industries must go hand-in-hand with a sustainable environment. We have benefited from EU standards on air quality and water quality along with protection for biodiversity. For example, since 1976 the EU has required member states to both monitor and clean up bathing water, both inland and coastal in their territory. Let's not forget that the EU is also a world leader in taking measures to keep global temperatures increases below 2 degrees Celsius and retains a triple target for 2020 – for which Scotland continues to play a part in helping meet these targets.
So as a parent, a food producer or a consumer - the EU brings many benefits to the quality of our lives. The food we eat, the air we breathe and the water we drink have all been improved by regulation across the European Union, so let's make this a positive vote on June 23rd to remain as members of the EU!