NICOLA Sturgeon has insisted Scotland will be given a choice between a “hard Brexit” and independence.

The First Minister made the claim as she argued the stance taken by the Prime Minister towards EU talks threatened “to be an act of self-harm on a scale barely understood”. She said that not only was yesterday’s triggering of Article 50 “economically foolhardy”, it was also “politically and constitutionally reckless”.

“The full effects on Northern Ireland, which currently faces the possible reintroduction of direct rule, remain to be seen,” she warned, writing in The Guardian.

“Similarly, there has been no serious attempt to engage with compromise proposals that would keep Scotland – which voted decisively to remain in Europe – inside the single market.

“The result is that we must now ensure that people in Scotland are given a choice between the hard Brexit deal now being negotiated, and independence.”

She added: “In Scotland alone, Brexit could cost the economy more than £11 billionn a year by 2030, and is predicted to lead to 80,000 job losses over the next decade. Those effects can be multiplied significantly for the UK as a whole.”

She also warned the impact of a hard Brexit on the economy would have a knock-on effect on resources for public services, in particular on the NHS, while for key sectors such as higher education and research funding the situation remained “desperately uncertain”.

In a statement after the Article 50 letter was formally handed to European Council President Donald Tusk, the First Minister also underlined that Scotland should be allowed to choose its own future once the terms of the UK’s departure from the European Union are clear – branding the formal start of the EU exit process a “leap in the dark”.

In the letter to Tusk May stressed that in the Brexit talks “we will negotiate as one United Kingdom”, adding that “the specific interests of every nation and region of the UK” would be taken into consideration during the process.

But the First Minister responded: “I wish the Prime Minister well in the negotiations which lie ahead, because a good Brexit deal for the UK is in Scotland’s interests.

“But the UK Government’s hard-line approach to Brexit is a reckless gamble, and it is clear, even at these very early stages, that the final deal is almost certain to be worse economically than the existing arrangements – and potentially much worse.

“Scotland voted decisively to remain part of Europe, but the UK Government only formally responded with a dismissal of our compromise proposals to keep Scotland in the single market at the same time as the Article 50 letter was sent.

“The next two years are hugely important and will determine the kind of country Scotland will become.

“The Prime Minister has today confirmed her aim is to reach a Brexit agreement covering a future relationship within two years. So the people of Scotland must have the final say on their own future once the terms of Brexit are clear.”

On Tuesday, MSPs voted by 69 to 59 in favour of a new independence referendum and yesterday the SNP pointed to the draft European Parliament resolution, which will form the basis of the first official response to the triggering of Article 50.

The resolution, which will be adopted next week in Strasbourg, states in the EU referendum a “large number of United Kingdom citizens, including a majority in Northern Ireland and Scotland, voted to remain in the European Union”.