THERESA May upset a lot of people in Scotland and England last week with her dismissal of access to the EU single market. Her resolution to proceed with a hard Brexit and to dismiss compromise hit those who wished greater co-operation.

But has she any alternative? She is going into “hard-ball” negotiations with the Commission, the European Parliament and above all the 27 remaining members of the EU. Given the humiliation of a “cold shoulder” at the last EU leaders’ summit, the message was clear.

The democratic decision of the UK to leave the EU has both offended and frightened the other members of the euro club. There is no European goodwill. The EU will seek to extort a high price. Yet the old axiom holds true: states have no friends, only interests. When the bluster clears, state interests will prevail. Businessmen and women do not go softly into negotiations of this kind by refusing to play their best card, in this case the threat to cut links with the EU; something that would be harmful to EU members that trade substantially with the UK.

Consideration of the impact, say, on the German car industry or on French food, wine and car exports will cause commercial interests throughout Europe to sweat. And so, perish the thought, the May battle tactics could be right – if only one thought she had the flexibility and imagination to reach a transitional settlement.

The Prime Minister’s deliberate disregard of Scotland’s wish to remain in the single market will anger many. This would be entirely wrong. First, we don’t know what the outcome of the negotiations will be. London has left open a loophole for Northern Ireland, possibly extendible to Scotland.

Secondly, even if an agreement is reached on Irish/Scottish single market access, there is no guarantee that it will not be vetoed by one or more of the 27 members, as with the treaty with Ukraine or the attempted block on the trade agreement with Canada. Many of the Eastern European members trade little with the UK and will be sure to lose out when the UK withdraws its financial contribution – not a great incentive to co-operate and a reminder that the size of the EU makes it virtually unmanageable

At first sight, the slap in the face to the Scottish Government paints the First Minister into a corner over the controversial decision to hold a second independence referendum. Nicola Sturgeon’s mind, thankfully and hopefully, does not work that way. If the SNP wants to wind up pressure on the single market, then it could hold a plebiscite on that issue; but even then, to what purpose if the UK Government is opposed and the EU cannot or will not deliver?

Demanding a European settlement for Scotland from a UK government powerless to deliver one is simply pointless posturing.

Scotland needs a reality check. There is an absence of appreciation of the weakness of Scotland’s position in the UK following the 2014 referendum on independence. In the two-year run-up to 2014, Scotland dominated UK politics. It seemed independence was imminent. The UK danced to Scotland’s tune. Edinburgh held the upper hand. That is no longer the case. Scotland blinked and, two years on, we are at the bottom of the UK political heap with no clout. The opinion polls show no movement in support for independence. It is almost as if the Scots people, through exhaustion, are in a catatonic trance. And yet there are calls for a gamble on a second referendum without adequate preparation. The Yes vote is just as likely to decrease as to surge. It defies common sense.

So ca’ canny is my advice to the SNP during the uncertainty over the negotiations: make constructive suggestions; see what comes out; yet have no illusions. A British exit is a direct consequence of the failure of the Scottish people to take control of their sovereignty. So far the attitude of London to Scotland is one of contempt: you had your chance so shut up and let your betters in Whitehall do the negotiations. Getting over this message of the need to restore Scotland’s national sovereignty is essential before there should be any mention of a second referendum.

If the Scots do emerge from their political hibernation and support for independence climbs significantly, it is a different ball game; if only.

Gordon Wilson is a former leader of the SNP.