Compared to the chaos and muddle post-Brexit at Westminster, Scotland appears a place of strategic foresight and calm. But Scotland is not protected from Brexit shockwaves.

And if the Scottish Government and parliament do want to protect its place in the EU or the single market, timing will be crucial – and delay costly.

Europe Minister David Lidington, insisted on his visit to Edinburgh last week Scotland would have to leave the EU with the rest of the UK. If this abrupt dismissal of Scotland’s approach continues, then Scotland will soon face a choice whether to be a part of the UK deal with the EU, or take the independence route.

The UK’s new Brexit unit overseen by Oliver Letwin may take time to come up with a plan. But Nicola Sturgeon’s new standing council of EU experts cannot afford to move slowly.

If Scotland wants to stay fully in the single market with free movement of labour, or stay in significantly more areas of the single market – and other EU policies – than England and Wales, then those proposals need setting out relatively quickly.

Theresa May, frontrunner to become the next prime minister, has said she won’t trigger Article 50 to start EU talks before the end of the year. But once a new prime minister is in place, and the Brexit unit sets out proposals for the talks, Scotland needs to have its broad options ready.

Any UK-EU deal that is different for Scotland will need both UK and EU agreement. If the First Minister sets out Scotland’s preferred options by early autumn, then it should rapidly become clear whether the Tory government, and new PM, are ready to take this seriously or not. Mr Lidington’s ill-considered dismissal of Scotland’s desired approach indicates that strong political argument may be needed.

If the EU and UK accepted in principle Scotland can stay in the single market then Scotland could not only shelter itself from negative economic impacts but also start to attract some of the business and investments that would pre-Brexit have gone to other parts of the UK.

If not, then Scotland’s options will have narrowed to one – the independence route or not.

Timing of any independence referendum is already much debated. But if the UK could be out of the EU by January 2019, there is little time to decide – if the aim is to stay within the EU.

There are expected to be two sets of UK-EU Brexit talks. The first will be the Article 50 talks, with a two-year deadline, to agree exit details – British staff in EU institutions, remaining budget contributions etc. The second, talks on the UK’s future trade relationship with the EU, may be linked to the first but are likely to take much longer.

So the UK could leave the EU by early 2019, while still in talks over its future relationship with Brussels. Scotland could easily end up outside the EU too, absorbed into the transitional trade deal the UK will need with the EU before it agrees a final deal.

If Scotland voted Yes in a second independence referendum by mid-2017, then this could cut through Scotland’s entanglement in Brexit. If talks to dissolve the UK were completed by end 2018, then it will be the rest of the UK leaving the EU. What then for Scotland?

The big open question remains how Brussels and the member states would deal with the UK splitting up before it had left the EU. Would the EU find some way to accelerate the normal accession process, where ratification of any accession treaty usually takes two-three years?

Or, since Scotland meets all EU criteria apart from the UK’s opt-outs, would they find a special status – or holding pen – so Scotland stayed in, while talks took place?

Despite doubts from Spain, would the EU really insist Scotland left only to re-join a few years down the line? There is much politics in all this, but what seems clear is that if Scotland didn’t hold an independence referendum until later – say end of 2018 – then while still legally a part of the UK, it is much more likely at that point to have to leave along with the UK, negotiate terms of its divorce, and then re-join the EU.

There are many choices and challenges ahead but lengthy consideration of options risks turning into potentially damaging delay. Some big decisions lie ahead.

Kirsty Hughes is an Associate Fellow of Friends of Europe.