Catherine Stihler has been an MEP since 1999 and is Vice-Chair on the Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection as well as a member of the Committee and the European Economic Area (EEA) Joint Parliamentary Committee.
Having been an MEP since 1999 and with two young children the hectic lifestyle of an MEP is something I am accustomed to.
I spend either three or four days a week in Brussels or Strasbourg and the rest of the week back home in Scotland; the structure of my day depends where I am.
During Brussels weeks, my days are a combination of committee meetings, political group meetings and discussions with visitors from national governments, NGO’s, academia, campaign groups and many other organisations. The day usually starts at 9am with a breakfast meetings and ends around 10pm after an event, a dinner discussion or, on occasions, a social dinner with colleagues.
In Strasbourg my diary is usually at its busiest. I am in meetings, working groups, giving speeches and observing debates from 8, and often do not leave the Parliament until after 10pm. It is in Strasbourg that we vote as a Parliament on legislation, one of the most important aspects of our work. As whip for the UK Labour delegation, Strasbourg weeks are particularly busy for me as I discuss our position on all the files to be voted on with my colleagues.
Constituency weeks vary greatly. Representing the whole of Scotland means I travel a lot. I do everything from discussing digital skills in the Highlands to speaking to school pupils in the Borders. I also have huge amounts of paperwork to deal with in relation to inquiries from constituents and accounts for my office in Inverkeithing.
Regardless of where I am, there is the matter of the emails I receive each day. I receive so many meeting requests that I cannot accept them all so work with my team to prioritise those which are of particular relevance to Scotland. I am Vice Chair of the Internal Market and Consumer Protection Committee as well as a substitute member of the Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee, both of which cover issues which really matter to the people of Scotland.
The work of the European Parliament is more relevant to the people of Scotland than many realise. In my committees, we cover everything from the cost of using your mobile phone abroad to safety standards for gas appliances. A major priority for me this parliamentary term is to see concrete action to end the digital divide
The life of an MEP is busy and never boring. My diary fills up months in advance and one of the best parts of my job is working together with colleagues from across the EU as well as concerned constituents, industry representatives and national experts.