On Tuesday the Scottish Government will become the first administration across the UK to publish serious proposals on how to respond to the Brexit vote.
This is an important moment for Scotland – as the disastrous economic consequences of Brexit become ever clearer, it is vital that we find a way to protect Scotland’s interests.
But it is also a hugely important moment for those living elsewhere on these islands, as we seek to exert a positive influence on the Brexit process for the whole of the UK.
Ahead of Tuesday, it is worth taking stock of how we got to this point.
In June’s EU referendum, the people of Scotland voted by an emphatic 24-point margin to remain, with every single local authority area returning a remain vote.
Indeed, the 62% that voted to remain in the EU is far higher than that which voted to remain in the UK in 2014.
But despite this, we face being dragged out of the EU against our will.
In the days following the Brexit vote, I committed the Scottish Government to doing everything possible to respect the outcome in Scotland – and when I met the Prime Minister, she said she was willing to consider options that we brought forward.
We are now bringing forward our options.
Throughout this entire process, our overriding objective has been to protect Scotland’s interests, and most pressingly to protect Scotland from a hard Brexit – one in which we leave the single market as well as the EU.
Leaving the single market – severing all of our hard-worn economic ties with our largest international export destination – would have profound consequences for Scotland’s businesses and our society.
By some estimates it would, over a decade, cost 80,000 jobs in Scotland and cut wages by an average of £2,000 a year.
That’s why maintaining Scotland’s current position in the European Single Market will be at the heart of the proposals we publish this week.
First and foremost, we will be arguing that the whole of the UK should remain in the single market.
However if that is not possible, then we will also be outlining ways in which this could be achieved for Scotland even if the rest of the UK leaves.
Doing so will involve the devolution of new powers to Edinburgh.
But regardless of what happens with the single market, there are further powers being repatriated from Brussels which should be devolved to the Scottish Parliament. It would add insult to injury if being dragged out of the EU were to be accompanied by a Westminster power grab.
When I unveil these proposals on Tuesday, I will be very up front.
The best scenario for Scotland’s future in my opinion would be as an independent nation and a full member of the EU.
But after the referendum, I said that in the spirit of compromise and consensus, I would examine all options – not just independence – and these proposals fulfil that commitment.
Similarly, I am up front when I say that implementing our proposals will not be straightforward. It will require cooperation, imagination and flexibility.
But put bluntly, Scotland did not create this situation – we are simply looking for ways to mitigate a Brexit which we did not vote for.
We expect the Tory Government, in line with its clear previous commitments, to discuss these proposals with us, to ensure the interests and democratic will of the people of Scotland are properly represented in the talks with the EU.
We expect similar consideration from Scotland’s other political parties – given their past statements.
Before the 2014 referendum, Scots Tory leader Ruth Davidson said that voting No “means we stay in” the EU. And after the Brexit vote, she unequivocally said “I want to stay in the single market” – our proposals offer a way to do that.
Labour have argued they want to maintain a place within the single market of the EU and the single market of the UK – again, our proposals will set out potential routes to achieve that.
While we have of course not been involved in formal negotiations with other EU countries – that can only be done by the UK Government as the Member State – we have been busy ensuring that our position is understood by our friends and neighbours across Europe.
But if our interests cannot be protected in this process, or are indeed brushed aside by the UK Government, then the people of Scotland should have the option of considering independence.
That is why we are consulting on legislation that would allow another independence referendum to take place if necessary.
With our proposals this week, we will show that we are willing to make compromises – proposing a situation which is not our first choice, in order to reach consensus.
The question now is whether the Tory government is willing to do likewise, to protect Scotland’s economic interests and our express desire to remain at the heart of Europe.
The way in which they respond will tell us much about whether or not the UK is indeed the partnership of equals they told us it was before the independence referendum.
The ball is now in their court.
This article originally appeared in the Sunday Mail