DEMOCRACY is a precious thing and as we look at what is happening in Ukraine, it is more important than ever that we recognise the importance of working alongside our neighbours and upholding the fundamental values of peace and unity.

With Europe Day, the 9th of May, having been this week, it is a good time to reflect on why Scotland should be a member of the European Union, an organisation the UK Government dragged us out of against our wishes.

In 2012, the EU won the Nobel Peace Prize because it had "for over six decades contributed to the advancement of peace and reconciliation, democracy and human rights in Europe" and the war in Ukraine brings into even sharper focus just how precious peace is.

Re-joining the EU would restore to Scots the freedom of movement which would allow us to, far more easily, travel, live, study and work in EU countries.

Trade barriers built by Brexit would be brought back down, removing the regulatory and customs borders we currently have to negotiate.

We could once again access the Single Market and the Customs Union, re-opening the Scottish economy to partnership with a trading bloc which is the largest exporter of goods and services in the world.

For centuries, Scotland has consistently punched above its weight in producing world-class research and innovation. Being out of the EU restricts the access our scientists need to have to the largest research network in the world.

We could be part of a different approach to international development and to the treatment of refugees and asylum seekers. While the EU has opened its doors to those fleeing the horrors of war in Ukraine, the UK continues to make it difficult for them.

That conflict in the Ukraine reminds us how fortunate we are to be able to celebrate our own participation in the democratic process.

I want to offer, my congratulations, once again, to all of those who have been elected as councillors, but also commiserations to those who lost their seats or where unsuccessful in challenging to get elected – without those prepared to stand and lose we do not have democracy.

Those council elections saw a fantastic result for the SNP here in Clackmannanshire. We now hold 50 per cent of the seats on Clackmannanshire Council, and it was just brilliant to see all nine out of nine SNP candidates elected.

Indeed, right across Scotland, the SNP – and the communities our councillors will represent – came out as winners. We secured more votes than any other party, more seats than any other party and made more gains than any other party.

To have our best ever local government election result, racking up an 11th consecutive national election win, after 15 years in Government is quite an achievement.

What that result clearly says is that people here in Clackmannanshire – as they do right across Scotland – trust the SNP and have faith in the SNP at the national level and at the local level.

That is not something that we will ever take for granted and I know that SNP councillors will be working very hard in the years ahead to secure the best that they can for their own wards and for the whole of Clackmannanshire.