The legislative institutions of the European Union are the European Parliament, the only directly elected part of the EU framework, and the Council of the European Union, which represents Member State governments. Using the process of co-decision, most EU legislation requires approval by both the Parliament and Council before it can be enacted across the territories of the 27 Member States.
But it is significant to note that local and regional authorities are responsible for implementing the vast majority of the decisions taken at European level – with around two-thirds of EU legislation being put into practice at sub-Member State and at local government level. Our elected Councils across Scotland will be taking a close interest in a wide range of EU debates including on legislative proposals on waste disposal and minimisation, obligations on energy efficiency, new rules on public procurement, shared services, potential EU rules on congestion charging and
aspects of maritime and transport policies.
Decisions on future European funding streams will also be closely followed by councillors, as pressure being applied to the EU budget will undoubtedly have a negative effect. Scotland has had significant benefit over the years from EU structural funding, often with local Councils leading in the development of programmes and individual projects. Public services – of "Services of General
Interest" in EU jargon – are already subject to some obligations relating to competition issues and competitive tendering, although the Lisbon Treaty contains a protocol on SGIs intended to prevent excessive interference by the European Commission in the right of local government to decide how local services are organised.
Transport is a key interest throughout Scotland. The recently published EU Transport White Paper contains some potentially worrying ideas on the subject of urban transportation and congestion charging - with the possibility of the EU making rules in these areas. With opportunities arising to influence a review of EU public procurement regulation, the Scottish Government has been very active in advocating a change that would allow local economic and social benefit to be taken into account in a public procurement process.
The examples above are just a few current and future areas of EU-wide debate, which must be monitored and influenced by and on behalf of Scotland's local authorities. With the SNP fielding a record number of council election candidates, I hope that even more of our Councils will soon have SNP-led administrations, committed to providing the best possible service to their communities and working with the Scottish Government to maximise opportunities for investment and economic development.
A strong SNP vote in these elections will be good for Scotland, good for local communities and will be another big step towards a confident Yes vote for Independence in Scotland's referendum. And by choosing to be a normal independent nation we will have the automatic right to participate at Europe's top table, standing up for our interests in the vitally important EU law-making process.