IN a coin-toss you get ready for either scenario. As the countdown – now just nine days – spins down towards the European Union referendum, we have to ask if that’s the case for Scotland in the case of Brexit.

Do I believe it will happen? Well, polls say it’s too close to call. What we know is the Leave camp is riding a wave of English/British patriotism, anti-establishment discontent, and misdirected frustrations over immigration. They can win.

Even if the campaign hasn’t lit the heather alight in Scotland, we should care. A Leave vote would have widespread implications that have hardly been discussed.

Talk of a second referendum on independence has spun like a broken record, and skipped a number of important steps. Instead of a rush to a re-run post-Brexit, there would be chaos at Westminster and an immediate need to assert Scottish influence on the disaffiliation process.

The UK Government would invoke the Lisbon Treaty’s Article 50. Legislation would then be passed at Westminster to begin the withdrawal process. David Cameron would surely resign. Negotiations begin. According to the treaty, the UK would formally exit the EU in two years’ time – 2018.

Meanwhile, Scotland – having voted to Remain – would face a complex political and legal juncture. How can the government reflect the will of the people when its legal position (in the Scotland Acts and EU law) is inferior to that of the UK state? Some will argue for an immediate independence referendum, but without confidence of victory that will not happen straight away.

I don’t expect a black or white decision on indyref2 following a Brexit. Nicola Sturgeon has said it will only take place “if there is clear and sustained evidence that independence has become the preferred option of a majority of the Scottish people”. That will not be the case on June 24. However, it could be by the time of a full UK-EU exit in 2018.

Throughout that two-year process, the independence movement can point to the democratic absurdity that Scotland can be removed against the will of the people. Interestingly, whisky giant Diageo and The Herald newspaper have said they will reconsider their position on independence in this scenario.

A gradual build-up to a second independence referendum suits the SNP. It strengthens their position without taking an immediate risk of putting their cause to an uncertain electorate.

There are also other ways to challenge the legitimacy of a vote for Brexit.

The Scottish Parliament could refuse legislative consent to Westminster dictating the negotiations. Similar to legal squabbles in Catalonia, this would heighten constitutional divisions where there is a clear popular mandate. Would the UK Government then “discipline” the devolved parliament with all the resulting authoritarian overtones?

Brexit would not just be a British phenomenon. It has consequences for the entire continent. Other populist movements will seek their own plebiscites – invoking fear at the heart of the EU project. In Paris, Berlin, Strasbourg and Brussels leaders will seek stability.

An immediate task for all Scottish politicians in the event of a Brexit is to take advantage of this with a diplomatic case for special treatment from EU institutions. Nicola Sturgeon should be on the phone to European capitals making it very clear that the Scottish Government will play an active role in discussing the referendum aftermath. She would have a democratic mandate, albeit not the legal recognition of a member state.

How would mainland Europe respond to Scottish requests? EU leaders would gain from undermining Westminster’s political legitimacy. How can England’s politicians attempt a hard-line negotiation strategy when its own Union is so fragile? European elites also quell domestic doubts about the EU by presenting Brexit as English exceptionalism. Scotland can play a useful role.

None of this has been discussed in public by Scottish, Westminster or EU officials. That may be because it’s fanciful, confidential, or because few have reckoned with the probability that England is heading for the exit door.

There is no White Paper to explain how the dust would settle. Another UK General Election? Street protests demanding independence? Parallel negotiations involving UK, Scottish and EU authorities? A call for a further Scotland Bill to devolve powers formerly held at an EU level?

There is little time left for voices in Scotland to continue to pour scorn on both official campaigns.

For those who advocate independence in Europe, a substantial Scottish Remain victory is required to salvage that vision. And a strategy is required for what happens if the rest of the UK puts that prospect in jeopardy.

Otherwise a referendum whose timing was unwanted, whose campaign was unloved, and whose result was unchanged by voters in Scotland could take us all into territory for which the public seems unprepared.