Last Thursday’s referendum was the most dramatic day in UK politics in living memory – but the result means that even more dramatic days lie ahead.

I’m proud that people in Glasgow and across Scotland declared in such overwhelming numbers that they saw their future as part of the EU.

However, the people of England and Wales have chosen a different path, and although I respect their decision, I deeply regret the fact that the UK will now be leaving the EU.

It was a sign of divergence between Scotland and large parts of the rest of the UK in how we see our place in the world.

For us in Scotland, we must consider carefully what our next steps should be.

During the campaign, we argued that remaining in the EU was vital so that our businesses could access the single market of 500 million people, that our people could enjoy the vast social and employment protections guaranteed under EU law, and so our freedom of movement across EU could be secured.

So for me, the priority now is to protect Scotland’s relationship with the EU and the Single Market as much as possible.

Within hours of the result, I’d had discussions with the Prime Minister, the Governor of the Bank of England, the Mayor of London Sadiq Khan – whose city also voted overwhelmingly to remain in the EU – and the leaders of all of Scotland’s political parties.

And the Cabinet met on Saturday morning to discuss how we build unity across Scotland, and what steps we need to take over the weeks and months ahead.

We agreed that we’ll seek to enter into immediate discussions with the EU institutions and the other EU member states to explore all possible options to protect Scotland’s place in the EU.

Closer to home, we have very important work to do to reassure people across Scotland who are concerned about the implications of this result.

An intensive programme of engagement is already underway with stakeholders, especially our business community, to emphasise that Scotland is and will continue to be an attractive and a stable place to do business.

One particular group that I’m anxious to reassure is the community of EU citizens living here in Scotland. I want them to know that we value their contribution to our society, and that they are welcome here.

To that end, I’ll be inviting the consul generals of all EU member states to a summit in Bute House in the next couple of weeks, to discuss how we can engage with their communities, and provide reassurance.

We also need to call on the broadest possible range of experts in Scotland, so I am establishing an advisory panel comprising a range of experts, who can advise the Scottish Government on a number of important matters - legal, financial and diplomatic.

It’ll also seek to encompass voices from across the political spectrum in Scotland and indeed different views on Scotland’s constitutional future.

And as for that constitutional future, as First Minister I have a duty to respond to the overwhelming vote for Remain north of the border.

Just two years after we were specifically told that only by voting against independence could Scotland protect its place in the EU – Scotland now stands to be taken out of the EU despite an overwhelming Remain vote.

Our manifesto stated that "The Scottish Parliament should have the right to hold another referendum...if there is a significant and material change in the circumstances that prevailed in 2014, such as Scotland being taken out the EU against our will."

We now face that prospect, so it’s a statement of the obvious that the option of a referendum is now on the table.

There are many people who voted against independence in 2014 who are now reassessing their decision. Indeed a very large number of them have contacted me already.

However I know that they will not want me to simply assume their support or to hear me talk about the challenges we face as if they are straightforward.

We have some distance to travel before we take any final decisions. The legal process for leaving the EU involves a two-year notice period – so we shouldn’t rush into anything until we have had discussions with the EU.

But we should be ready to hold another referendum if it emerges that is the only way to protect our interests – so we’ll prepare the necessary legislation to enable a new independence referendum to take place if and when Parliament so decides.

Of course, in the midst of all these dramatic events, the business of government goes on. While Westminster becomes engulfed in political turmoil, the Scottish Government will continue our work to improve schools, hospitals and the economy.

And despite all the uncertainty lying ahead, I know that the people of England, Wales and Northern Ireland will always be Scotland’s closest neighbours and our best friends.