TOM Arthur MSP is a columnist for the Barrhead News.

The Renfrewshire South representative's latest opinion piece centres on the prospect of a second referendum on Scottish independence.

IT is now nine months since Scotland voted overwhelmingly to remain a member of the European Union.

Regardless of whether you voted Remain or Leave, we can all agree that Scotland’s relationship with Europe is of huge importance to the future of our country.

Over the past 40 years, Scotland has benefited enormously from membership of the European Single Market – the largest single market in the world.

Our health and social care sector relies upon the talented and dedicated EU citizens who call Scotland home, as does our hospitality and tourism industry.

Much of the world-leading research carried out in our universities depends upon European funding.

And my constituents in Renfrewshire South have benefited from European funding programmes such as LEADER, as well as the Common Agricultural Policy.

Despite voting by 62 per cent to 38 per cent last June to secure all of these benefits, Scotland now faces being stripped of them by a UK Tory Government that won only one seat out of 59 in Scotland.

For months, the Scottish Government have attempted to engage with the UK Government to find a way for Scotland to remain both a member of the Single Market and the UK.

All of these efforts have been rebuffed by a Tory Prime Minister determined to drive Scotland and the UK over a hard Brexit cliff edge.

If the Tory UK Government is willing to ignore Scotland on an issue as important as our relationship with Europe, it’s clear that Scotland’s voice and opinion in the UK is meaningless.

Far from being a partnership of equals, it is now increasingly evident that the UK Government does not respect the democratic voice of the Scottish people.

It is therefore only right that the First Minister has stated that it should be the people of Scotland who should decide Scotland’s future in a referendum – not a UK Tory Government that Scotland did not vote for.

Election time WE are now less than two months away from the local government elections.

While it’s often events at Holyrood and Westminster that dominate the headlines, it’s the decisions taken in council chambers that can have the most immediate impact on our daily lives.

Given the responsibility that councils have over areas like education, health and social care, roads and street lighting, recycling and refuge collection, libraries and leisure facilities, it would be easy to imagine there would be huge interest in local elections.

Unfortunately, however, at the last council elections in 2012, less than half of those entitled to vote chose to do so across Barrhead, Neilston and Uplawmoor.

The next elections are to be held on Thursday, May 4 and, if you are not registered to vote, you have until April 17 to do so.

Also, for the first time, 16 and 17-year-olds will be entitled to vote.

We all use the services provided by councils, whether it’s the schools our children attend or the social care provided to those who require support.

Make sure you have your say.