CHANGED, changed utterly. It’s taken a few days, but Scotland is finally waking up to the reality of life after Theresa May. And it’s a hard road ahead, any way you look at it.

Scotland’s fate currently lies in the hands of 120,000 elderly members of the Conservative Party, who will select Britain’s next Prime Minister this summer without the voters of Britain having any say at all. These geriatric king-makers intend to install a leader in Nigel Farage’s image, preferably Boris Johnson. He or she will then propel the UK into the self-inflicted turmoil of a No Deal Brexit.

This is madness. Yet Scottish voters will be left watching this doomsday clock tick away inexorably till their economic welfare is sacrificed on the altar of Brexit on Halloween. The prospect of No Deal may inspire a wartime spirit among Brexit voters, but the vast majority of Scottish voters see this as an act of wilful self-harm by a political elite who have lost the plot.

The Scottish Government’s chief economic adviser says that No Deal could cost Scotland £11 billion in less than a year. This on top of possible food and medicine shortages, and transport disruption as the UK severs its settled relations with its biggest trading partner. The longer-term impact of tariffs and lost markets could, according to the Scottish Government, cost 80,000 jobs in Scotland.

Project fear? Perhaps. But not even the most starry-eyed Brexiter believes that No Deal would be cost-free. The question is: what can the Scottish government, and Holyrood, do to prevent this? Nicola Sturgeon says she wants an independence referendum in late 2020, but by then, the damage will already have been done.

I have argued against an advisory referendum on independence for the obvious reasons: Unionists would boycott it and Westminster would ignore it. But the way things are going, there may not be time to wait around for a Section 30 Order that never arrives. The situation is becoming critical.The Scottish Parliament needs to think carefully today about how it intends to respond to the reckless behaviour of the governing party in the UK.

Gone are the visions of a smooth and orderly transition to Brexit, negotiated in goodwill with Brussels. Theresa May’s likely successors – Boris Johnson, Dominic Raab, Esther McVey – are behaving like intoxicated football fans before an away match. “Come on you Brussels” they slur, “if you think you’re hard enough”.

Even those who would prefer negotiation, like the Foreign Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, are being swept way by No Deal fever. No sooner had he said that leaving without a deal would be “political suicide” than his rivals were vying with each other to don the suicide vest. They yearn for a breakdown in relations with Europe, the better to express their pugnacious nationalism.

Theresa May’s EU Withdrawal Deal, which took two years to negotiate, is dead and another cannot be renegotiated before the end of the current Brextension on October 31. In fact, one of the conditions of the extension, we now learn, was that the Withdrawal Agreement would not be reopened. There is, as Britain’s first female prime minister put it, no alternative.

Anyway, there won’t be a Brussels to negotiate with because both the President of the Council and the President of the European Commission are standing down and their successors won’t be in place until November when Britain will already have left.

This means Britain is heading like an express train for a cliff-edge Brexit in five short months. And, as things stand, Scotland will be dragged over the precipice along with the rest of the UK. The game plan in the Brexit Bunker is for Prime Minister Boris, or whoever, to ignore Parliament, sit tight, and allow Britain to crash out by the remorseless legal logic of Article 50.

Read more: Nicola Sturgeon plans for indyref2 next year

Many hope that Westminster will get its act together and block this – I certainly do. But there is no guarantee that our shell-shocked and confused MPs will be able to organise a successful no confidence motion to bring down the next prime minister and seize control. Nor is there a majority in Parliament for a repeat referendum, even if Labour were to persuade its dithering leader, Jeremy Corbyn, that it should support one. He says he’ll think about it in September.

So if the House of Commons is now being held hostage by the Brexit revolutionaries, what can Holyrood do to save the day? Today, Nicola Sturgeon will unveil her bill for a repeat referendum, not on Europe, but on Scottish independence. However, today’s bill does not actually legislate for Indyref 2. It merely provides the technical framework for a referendum if and when Westminster agrees to make it legally binding by passing a Section 30 order. And the chances of that happening are precisely zero.

For a start there is no prime minister to receive a Section 30 request. Theresa May has been reduced to the status of a piece of constitutional furniture for Donald Trump’s state visit. Her successor will be even less likely to contemplate breaking up the UK before the UK has departed from the EU. In fact, the prospect of any UK prime minister, Labour or Tory, agreeing to a Scottish referendum until well into the next decade seems remote.

Yet, the case for a repeat referendum on Scottish independence is surely stronger than the case for the repeat Brexit referendum now advocated by Labour and the rejuvenated Liberal Democrats. Scots were told in 2014 that only by remaining in the UK could they be sure of remaining in the EU. Now they are faced, not just with leaving Europe against their will, but crashing out of it in the worst possible terms. Material changes in circumstances don’t come much more material than this.

Enough already. It may be necessary to advance the independence timetable and seek a test of Scottish opinion this autumn. At the very least, an advisory referendum would place on record that Scotland does not go willingly into the Brexit night.