During the 2014 Scottish independence referendum campaign, it was held by the No campaign that Scotland would be automatically expelled from the European Union if it voted to leave the UK, potentially swinging the vote to No. In the 2016 Brexit vote, Scots voted by 62% to remain in the EU, though this made no difference to the outcome.

While the mechanism to achieve independence has yet to be determined, it is important to plan for what comes after in terms of Scotland's relations with Europe, particularly over trade. You don’t have to go further than the local shops to see the havoc Brexit has wrought. It is therefore of great urgency to get Scotland back into the Single Market and rapidly resume trade with Europe.

The current SNP policy to get back into the Single Market is through membership in the EU, and that a "yes" vote in whatever form would also be "yes" for the EU. This ignores the fact that there are many independence supporters who do not want to join the EU. Also, there has been no debate over other options before committing to the long, arduous process of joining the EU outside the Single Market.

Another option is joining the European Free Trade Association, or EFTA, then rejoining the Single Market through the European Economic Area, or EEA. EFTA is composed of Norway, Iceland, Lichtenstein, and Switzerland. All are in the Single Market; the first three through EEA membership, and Switzerland through bilateral treaties with the EU. All 27 EU states are members of the EEA.

Joining EFTA is simple. Following a "democratic event" affirming majority support for independence, the First Minister would send a letter to the EFTA Council requesting membership. This "democratic event" could be in the form of a Westminster or Holyrood plebiscite election, for example. Once this request is approved (which it will be) and Scotland becomes an EFTA member, the three EFTA/EEA states would petition the EEA council for Scotland’s membership. Once consensus is reached in the council, the 30 members must ratify Scotland’s membership according to their political norms, which could take two or so years.

During this ratification period by the EEA members, Scotland can draw on the vast expertise of the EFTA and EEA members to help create the laws and institutions necessary to abide by the terms of the EEA, and build the new Scottish state. While Scotland was part of the EU in the UK, it was largely UK institutions which enforced the Acquis chapters, or EU law. For example, the UK Home Office applied EU immigration law. Analogous institutions simply do not exist in Scotland, as the "Scottish" civil service is subservient to Westminster. They will need to be created from scratch.

Joining the EU would be much more complex, arduous, uncertain, and could take 10 years at least. Read more here.

Last month I attended a seminar on the functioning of the EEA at EFTA House in Brussels. Basically, EFTA will welcome Scotland with open arms, once a "democratic event" has affirmed majority support for independence. Also, there are hundreds of EFTA/EEA specialists and academics who would love nothing more than to contribute to empirically building the Scottish state. It would be the most exciting thing to happen to EFTA since Lichtenstein joined in 1991.

I also spoke with representatives from the EU Commission, who affirmed that given the unanimity requirement it would currently be very difficult for Scotland to even become a candidate for membership, and that it is logical to join EFTA/EEA first to get back in the single market. EU membership could be considered later.

EFTA/EEA is offering Scotland an economic lifeline. If the Yes movement and parties set aside differences and make the next election a "democratic event", Scotland can rapidly be independent in EFTA/EEA. Carpe Diem.

Dr Mark McNaught is Maître de conférences at the University of Rennes France, and founder of the Scottish Sovereignty Research Group