As the 27 remaining EU states meet today to consider the Withdrawal Agreement and Political Declaration, we need to consider the mechanisms by which Scotland’s life boat can be launched to escape this Brexit Bourach.

Last spring, in response to the First Minister’s request for a Section 30 order (the power to organise a binding referendum) the Prime Minister said “Now is not the time”. Well, with Brexit looming, now is the time for Scotland to have the right to choose its own future.

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This is why I signed my colleague Angus MacNeil’s letter to the Prime Minister to ask what she considers the most appropriate way to allow Scottish voters to make that choice –by granting a section 30 order, for a proper binding referendum, or some permutation of votes in an election. The UK was not forbidden to hold its referendum by the EU and Article 50 provided a clear process.

The objection of the Brexiteers to the Irish backstop is because the UK will not be able to leave it unilaterally, as they could the EU, yet they don’t see the irony of their “No to Indy2” policy which traps Scotland in the United Kingdom.

Support to hold a referendum at some point in the coming years is growing but this option should be available before our economy is significantly damaged or Scotland dragged too far from EU regulations and standards.

If Scotland had taken control of its own affairs after 2014, we wouldn’t be facing this Brexit mess.

With only four and a half months until Brexit day, it is now clear that the Prime Minister has simply negotiated a “blind Brexit” with no clear destination after leaving the EU. This would affect almost every industry, and impact on all of our lives in one way or another, from our public services to our farmers and fishermen.

The loss of European Social Funding to our local authorities will undermine multiple projects to support our most disadvantaged and make it harder to redress the inequality which is a hallmark of UK society.

As the remaining 27 EU countries meet to consider whether they find the cobbled together deal acceptable, it is time to start considering Scotland’s options to choose its own future. Scotland is a medium sized Northern European country and we want to take our place at the top table and have our own voice in the EU and United Nations.

While the Political Declaration on the future arrangements has now been expanded from six and a half pages to 26, it is largely just additional padding rather than any substantive concessions. There is no longer the promise, by the Prime Minister, of membership of key European agencies and absolutely no mention, anywhere in the document, of “frictionless” trade.

The impact on just-in-time manufacturing supply chains, such as in aerospace or pharmaceuticals, will be significant. The latter will also be hit by the loss of membership of the European Medicines Agency and Chemical Agency and the need to shift some of their quality control procedures inside the EU – yet more jobs that will move.

These agencies do not have associate membership due to their legal underpinning by the European Court of Justice, which the UK is determined to leave.

MANY people are bored with Brexit and turn the TV off at the first mention of “the B-word” and think it won’t affect them directly. There is still the thought that it is all about trade and customs but, while that will have a huge impact on the UK and Scottish economies, Brexit will actually affect every aspect of our lives from education to healthcare, from food prices to food choices.

For Scotland’s premium food and drink industry, transport delays at Dover threaten the market value of fresh produce while trade deals, particularly with the US, could see American whisky sold as “Scotch” and our high quality beef undercut by hormone injected meat.

Reading the Withdrawal Agreement and Future Declaration together, it is clear that the fishing industry, the only real beneficiary of Brexit put forward by Tories, will actually lose out yet again. The EU is the biggest market for Scottish seafood but fishing will not be included in any customs arrangement and processed fish will face tariffs EU. As some unprocessed fish can be landed into continental harbours without paying tariffs, to be processed there, some Scottish vessels are likely to start landing their catch directly into mainland Europe. This would decimate the Scottish fish processing industry, along with local fish harbours and markets. So much for Brexit providing a bonanza for fishing communities.

On the west coast the catch is dominated by crustaceans such as langoustine and lobster. With 85% of this luxury seafood being sold to EU customers, it must be transported quickly to maintain its value. Scottish smoked salmon, the highest value food export for the entire UK, would lose its tariff free advantage over the Norwegian version. The fishing industry is long overdue for reform, particularly the way just a few families hold the vast majority of quota allocations, but this problem has nothing to do with the Common Fisheries Policy.

I have written previously about the impact of Brexit on healthcare with the workforce challenges, faced by all four UK health services, aggravated by the loss of EU colleagues and a 90% drop in EU nurses coming to the UK. The Prime Minister’s awful description of EU citizens as “queue jumpers”, on top of previously being described as “bargaining chips”, has just added to the feeling of being unwelcome. Brexit will also impact on research collaboration, access to new medicines and our ability to obtain medical treatment within the EU.

One of the major arguments used by No campaigners in 2014 was that it was the only way to stay in the EU but now we face being dragged out against the wishes of 62% of Scottish voters. While the Scottish Government’s preference is to remain fully inside the EU, it has repeatedly put forward compromise proposals to remain in the single market and customs union, either with the whole UK or as a special arrangement. Despite the fact that the former would solve the Irish border problem, it was rejected by the UK Government – who refused to even ask the EU for a special arrangement for Scotland, in recognition of our vote to Remain. While it is right that Northern Ireland is able to stay in the customs union and close to the single market, to avoid infrastructure on the border, it nevertheless will put Scotland at a considerable commercial disadvantage. Northern Ireland will be a more attractive site for companies wishing to export easily into the EU market.

Brexit is also being used to undermine the Scottish Parliament as Westminster takes ultimate control over 24 areas of devolved policy rather than passing the powers from the EU to Holyrood. As the list includes fishing, agriculture, environment, food standards and food labelling, it is clearly about negotiating a UK-US trade deal with Trump, without any input from the the Scottish Government. The US totally rejects protected geographical titles and their number one demand is the right to sell their whisky as “Scotch”. For me as a medic, one of the scariest aspects is that Westminster is taking the power to set the UK rules on public procurement. This means they could insist all contracts are put out to tender between NHS and private providers, as they have in England.

In my travels, I meet many independence supporters who are waiting for a date to be called before they start campaigning but it is simply the other way round – getting a real shift in the polls would help put pressure on the Prime Minister by showing the demand for a referendum. We can’t just wait for that to happen by itself – we all need to make it happen. We need to be more focussed on the “why” of independence, rather that the ‘when’. Unlike in 2014, there will be no status-quo option and Scottish voters will have to choose between being a neglected region of Brexit Britain or a modern outward-looking country, with its own voice in the EU.