The Farage/Clegg debate showed just how uncertain the UK's future position in the EU is

LAST week a much-hyped debate took place between the Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg and the leader of Ukip Nigel Farage about the UK's membership of the European Union.

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This debate demonstrated just how uncertain the UK's position in Europe is, with the high probability of an in-out referendum on EU membership after the general election.

Westminster politics is dominated by negative discussions over Europe and we are seeing more policies being dictated by Ukip and their anti-European, anti-immigration agenda. Even senior Conservatives in the UK Government claim that the UK would be unaffected by leaving the EU.

Of course we all agree Europe does need reform to bring its institutions closer to citizens, but Eurosceptics overlook the huge advantages European membership gives to Glasgow and Scotland. Glasgow is a great European city which benefits in so many areas from EU membership.

For example our great universities access funding from the EU for research and innovation; Europe's new funding programme Horizon 2020 has a budget of just over 70 billion euros, which can fund work at Glasgow's universities.

Glaswegians and people across Scotland also benefit from being able to move freely throughout Europe, without visas. We can also live, work and study abroad, and the Erasmus scheme helps many of Scotland's young people to study elsewhere in the EU.

Money for regeneration in Glasgow also comes from Europe, including more than £1 million of funding for SPT's Revitalising Subway Stations project and the conversion of an empty building in Queen Street in Glasgow city centre into high quality retail and office space.

Cash from the European Social Fund makes up part of our Youth Employment Scotland Fund, which is helping Scotland's young people into work, and money from the European Regional Development Fund makes up part of Scotland SME Growth Programme, which supports businesses to grow and creates employment.

OUR membership of the EU gives Scotland access to these funds which help up to 10,000 young people across Scotland to be supported into work.

An independent Scotland would continue to be a member of the EU, and would at last be able to have a voice to stand up for Scottish interests. As the largest oil producer and a major fishing nation with the second largest amount of European waters, an independent Scotland would be seen as a vital member of the EU.

We are in the run up to May's European elections and I am pleased that my party's candidates include Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh who, if elected, would be Scotland's first female Asian MEP. This would send a great signal to Ukip, who may do well with their negative rhetoric in the rest of the UK, but I am proud to say has no place in Scotland.

Over the past week there has also been a boost for the Yes campaign as polls show that more people believe that Scotland's economy would perform better outside the UK. People are also not believing Better Together's scaremongering over use of the pound after independence, as 45% of voters believe that a deal on the pound would be struck after a Yes vote.

Polling expert Professor John Curtice puts it well when he said: "In relentlessly and continuously attacking the alleged weaknesses of the independence case, the No campaign would appear to be at risk of becoming an irritating background noise to which nobody listens any more."


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