THROUGHOUT the entire disastrous Brexit process the interests of Scotland haven’t even been an afterthought for the UK Government and the Conservative Party.

The overwhelming vote to Remain, repeated votes in the Scottish Parliament, and the compromise option of Single Market and Customs Union membership put forward by the Scottish Government have all been ignored.

In being shut out of the process, we are not, however, alone. Right from the very start, when the decision to hold an EU referendum was made, this Brexit project has been all about seeking - and failing - to placate the feuding factions of the Tory party. Nothing else has mattered, certainly not the jobs or livelihoods of people in Scotland or the UK.

READ MORE: Herald poll: Scotland should have independence referendum after Brexit 

There has been no attempt to bring people together to seek consensus, despite a clear commitment to do so, or to recognise the narrow nature of the Leave vote across the UK, let alone the 62 per cent Remain vote in Scotland.

The sheer scale of the Prime Minister’s historic defeat does not seem to have registered with her but the nature of that loss means the whole approach of the UK Government has to change. I, and the new First Minister of Wales, Mark Drakeford, have asked for an urgent meeting of the Joint Ministerial Committee.

But more importantly there needs to be a fundamental re-think of the way the UK Government does business. Rather than being in the lecturing business, the Prime Minister needs to be in the listening business. Instead of seeking to bulldoze through unacceptable proposals she has to take on board the views of others.

There is no prospect whatsoever of the Prime Minister’s current deal being passed at the second attempt. That deal would make us poorer, it would drag Scotland out of not just the EU but the Customs Union and Single Market - which is eight times the size of the UK alone - hitting jobs and living standards.

It would put us at a competitive disadvantage compared with Northern Ireland and it would almost certainly lead to a fall in Scotland’s working population because of the Prime Minister’s anti-immigration obsession. It would mean years of further damaging uncertainty as a vague political declaration will only provide more fuel for the internal disagreements within the Government.

READ MORE: David Mundell faces fresh calls to resign over Brexit vote 

Therefore a proper plan is needed. In the discussions the Prime Minister says she wants to have with other parties, and the devolved governments, we will be making it clear what we believe needs to happen.

The first step that must be taken is to rule out No Deal. This outcome, so beloved of the hard Brexiteers in the Tory Party, must be taken off the table. Disgracefully the threat of No Deal has been used by the Prime Minister in an attempt to force MPs to accept her deal. That threat must now be removed.

The second step is to stop the clock on Brexit. The Prime Minister still seems unable to face up the urgency of the situation with the UK due to leave the EU in less than three months’ time.

So Theresa May must immediately write to the EU asking to extend the Article 50 process and take the steps provided for in the EU Withdrawal Act to remove March 29 as the date for the UK’s exit. An extension would require the unanimous support of the EU 27 which means there is no more time to waste.

And thirdly, now that the Prime Minister has limped through a vote of no confidence, with a general election unlikely, legislation must also be brought forward to hold a second referendum on EU membership with the option for Remain on the ballot paper.

A second referendum would not guarantee that Scotland’s wishes will prevail, although SNP members would seek to amend any legislation with a “four-nation lock” so that the UK could only leave with the agreement of all the UK’s nations.

The only way to ensure that democratic guarantee, of course, is for Scotland to be an independent country.

One of the most instructive and revealing aspects of the period since the Brexit vote is the contrast between the way Ireland has been treated by the EU and the contempt with which Scotland has treated by the Westminster government.

Ireland has received solidarity and support from all its EU partners, while our national interests are ignored, the powers of the Scottish Parliament are eroded and we are left at the mercy of an increasingly dysfunctional and chaotic Westminster system.

Indeed the costs to Scotland of not being independent have never been clearer.

But whatever Scotland’s constitutional future, it will be in all our interests for the UK to have the closest possible relationship with Europe, and it is time to put the question of EU membership to the people again.

Nicola Sturgeon is First Minister of Scotland and leader of the SNP