Scottish voters have watched the confusion and turmoil in Westminster with mounting alarm about the future of their country. This is not just about being forced out of the European Union against the wishes of the vast majority of Scottish voters in the recent referendum. The threat to Scotland's political wellbeing is much more direct than that.

The recession that most experts believe will follow Brexit is likely to hit Scotland hard. A fractious claque of right wing politicians is bidding to take over a Conservative government not noted for its liberalism. The only Tory leadership candidate to address Scotland directly has been the Justice Secretary, Michael Gove, and then only to warn of another assault on Scottish spending. The UK Labour Party is engaged in a bitter civil war which seems likely to rule that party out of contention for a generation.

The UK political class seems to have gone AWOL in the wake of the Brexit vote. Yet Westminster politicians and the London press have airily dismissed First Minister Nicola Sturgeon's valiant attempts to find some kind of middle way to allow Scotland to have a continuing relationship with the EU while the rest of the UK exits. After all, Scots are citizens of the European Union and have been under the protection of EU/EC law for 43 years. It is a democratic abomination that Scots should be forced out of Europe against their will. The weight of history demands that Scotland retain its European identity and resist being press-ganged into Little Britain.

Scotland has been an outward looking European nation since the late middle ages. From the 16th Century, Scots merchants, academics and soldiers spread far and wide in the continent establishing communities in countries like Poland, Sweden and the Low Countries. As a poor nation on Europe's periphery it was Scotland's lot to export its people, and the flow continued apace during the British Empire. But intellectual and commercial trade was very much two way. It is no accident that so many European words have entered the Scottish language, such as the Swedish “braw”, Dutch “kirk”, German “ken”, French “dour”. Our very language testifies to Scotland's European connections.

Scotland now faces the prospect of our door to Europe being slammed shut by Little England Brexiteers who believe that the UK can become a fortress against the world. Tory leadership candidates speak of “taking control of our borders”, a weasel phrase which means: keep foreigners out. But Scotland needs and welcomes newcomers to these shores - as a migrant nation ourselves, we abhor the victimisation of hard working immigrants who helped pull the British economy out of the last recession and who continue to live in harmony with the Scottish people.

We should applaud Nicola Sturgeon's attempts to engage with Europe during the Article 50 negotiations on British withdrawal, but we must be realistic about her prospects. In the immediate future, Brussels will deal directly with the UK as the member state who signed the various EU treaties. The Scottish parliament need not sit on its hands however. We urge all MSPs to withhold consent to any Westminster legislation which has the effect of removing Scotland from the protection of European Union citizenship. Clause 29 of the 1998 Scotland Act requires that all Scottish legislation must be in accordance with EU law. Any attempt to amend this should be rejected by Holyrood.

Meanwhile the Scottish nation, and not just the SNP, needs to begin a debate about Scotland's future governance. A useful starting point might be the 1989 Claim of Right, drafted by the founders of the Scottish Constitutional Convention, which “acknowledged the sovereign right of the Scottish people to determine the form of government best suited to their needs.” That claim, signed by Labour politicians including Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling, did not have any legal standing at the time. But it led to the creation of the Scottish parliament ten years later.

This is not a narrow issue of European Law, about the definition of a member state, but of the Scottish people’s right to choose to remain citizens of the European Union. It must be centre stage in the coming debates about Article 50 and Brexit. Nicola Sturgeon must continue her diplomatic missions to Brussels. As soon as it becomes clear that efforts to retain Scotland's right to EU citizenship have been exhausted, then there must be a second independence referendum to resolve the issue of Scotland's place in the UK.

In 2014, Scots voted on a false prospectus, believing that voting to remain in the United Kingdom would ensure Scotland’s continued membership of the European Union. Brexit has annulled that vote. Scotland must now break free of the UK or face a bleak future of economic stagnation, cultural exclusion and political alienation. A sullen and reluctant member of a xenophobic union led by right wing politicians profoundly out of touch with Scottish sensibilities.