10325374_842844915744161_1747748988925750116_nThree very different defections from No to Yes this week have caused a ripple of anxiety amongst the usually bullish remnants of the Better Together crowd. Arguably the most significant is that of Mike Dailly, a fervent No supporter and respected anti-poverty campaigner. Scottish Housing Regulator described him as: “Mike has been the Principal Solicitor at Glasgow’s Govan Law Centre since 1999 where he has undertaken a number of progressive law reform projects including the abolition of poindings and warrant sales, free and nutritious school meals, unfair UK bank charges, and the regulation of property factors.” The switch has caused apoplexy amongst senior Labour figures – see Neil Findlay here.

Dailly tweeted:

He’s a significant, well respected figure. But what’s interesting is that he’s not a soft No voter, he’s a hard No voter, a committed combative supporter of the Union and sharp critic of the SNP.

He’s not alone, the writer, lecturer and philosopher AC Grayling also took this week to announce a significant change of heart. He has two principal reasons. First he thinks the Brexit mandate is illegitimate. Writing in The New European (‘Brexit will wipe UK out of history: It will no longer be the UK’) he said:

“The EU referendum was explicitly an advisory, non-binding poll. MPs were told this very clearly in the briefing they were given before debating the Bill.  They were also explicitly alerted to the fact that if there were to be any question otherwise, a supermajority would be required – the norm in most mature constitutions is a two-thirds majority. In the event a mere 37% of the gerrymandered electorate voted Leave. This is a proportion too small for a strike to be permitted in any important public service in the UK, and by far too little to trigger a general election out of Parliamentary term, this requiring 66% of all MPs, whether they vote or not.  Treating the referendum as binding and its 37% Leave percentage as mandating is both dishonest and politically illegitimate.” Second he thinks that Brexit fundamentally alters the nature (and existence) of Britain: “The second aspect of the crisis, and the reason why the UK will leave history if it leaves the EU, is that Scotland and perhaps Northern Ireland will leave the UK. That is why the UK will leave history: it will no longer be the UK. Scotland and Northern Ireland have every reason to refuse to be dragged into the morass of negative consequences into which English right-wing Tories and English tabloid newspapers and English xenophobia are plunging us. Along with many who campaigned to keep the Union together at the time of the Scottish independence referendum, I would now strongly support it: Brexit is an irrational and damaging project, and there is no reason why a strongly pro-EU Scotland should be forced to eat the rubbish that the Brexiteers are seeking to serve up.”

“Brexit is an irrational and damaging project, and there is no reason why a strongly pro-EU Scotland should be forced to eat the rubbish that the Brexiteers are seeking to serve up …”

Grayling is an articulate and very well respected author and academic. He was one of the 200 signatories of the ‘Celebrities’ open letter to Scotland’ in 2014 and was a passionate advocate of the Union.

The third individual to cross the divide is less well known but no less significant.

Steve Bullock is an Englishman living in Belgium, a musician and blogger: “Contrary to the expectations of some, Scotland welcomed this Englishman wholeheartedly, and I would now like to help it.”

He writes:

“So why the SNP, and why now? Because the Westminster government and Parliament dragging Scotland out of the EU against its will is a travesty.  Not only that, but the refusal of both to support, or even seriously examine the Scottish Government’s very reasonable compromise proposals on remaining in the Single Market was nothing less than a clear “Fuck Off” to everyone in Scotland, and to the UK’s constitutional settlement as a whole.  And this was on a compromise which the Scottish Government itself said was nowhere near their preferred option. Anyone who has not read the Scottish Government’s White paper “Scotland’s Place in Europe” should do so, even if they are not in Scotland.  It sets out clearly that this horrible car-crash Brexit that the government is planning, and the opposition are supporting, does not have to happen.  It sets out that even if Brexit did have to happen, its effects could be mitigated for Scotland.  In fact, it could be mitigated for the whole of the UK.  All opposition parties should have got behind this. http://www.gov.scot/Publications/2016/12/9234/downloads Last night’s vote in the Commons on Article 50, was a pathetic abrogation of duty by all but a hundred or so MPs.  There is nothing democratic about MPs voting for something they know will damage their country and its people.”

Three very different figures don’t make a sea-change but they could be canaries in the coal-mine. They are united in the motivation that the unfolding Brexit fiasco has been a game-changer. As Ken Clarke, playing Geoffrey Howe to Theresa May articulated: “Apparently you follow the rabbit down the hole and emerge in a wonderland where suddenly countries throughout the world are queuing up to give us trading advantages and access to their markets that previously we’ve never been able to achieve. Nice men like President Trump and President Erdogan are just impatient to abandon their normal protectionism and give us access!”

“Apparently you follow the rabbit down the hole and emerge in a wonderland where suddenly countries throughout the world are queuing up to give us trading advantages and access to their markets that previously we’ve never been able to achieve. Nice men like President Trump and President Erdogan are just impatient to abandon their normal protectionism and give us access!”

The significance of which was not a Tory ‘big beast’ rebelling but as it relays the cracks in the Conservative party being pushed into more and more ridiculous and extreme positions that will become ever more indefensible. Ruth Davidson likes to put a firewall between her and her toxic colleagues down south. But this is becoming more and more difficult to achieve. If and when we get to a second referendum, the likelihood is that Davidson will be pushed to the fore on the back of her contrived over-blown and unexamined ‘Scottish success’.  The is great news as they can’t win with her in charge.

The contradictions hypocrisy and lies of the Better together campaign and the 2015 Conservative Manifesto are piling up. As Alex Salmond said yesterday:

“As for the economic damage, there was nothing wrong with the Treasury medium-term forecasts on coming out of the single marketplace; even if there is a bespoke deal, it will result in a 6% loss in GDP.

The Tory 2015 manifesto is not my bedtime reading, but as I recall, page 72 said:

“We say: yes to the Single Market”.

The Tories were right to say yes. It was funny that yesterday all the Conservative speakers remembered the commitment to a referendum, but not one of them remembered their commitment to the single marketplace. Of course it was not the case that a withdrawal from the European Community meant a withdrawal from the single marketplace. During the campaign, I had the pleasure of debating with Daniel Hannan MEP, who said:

“Absolutely nobody is talking about threatening our place in the Single Market”.

Of course it is possible to honour the result of the referendum and stay in the single marketplace, and even if people think there will be an exit from the single marketplace, it is madness, in diplomatic negotiating terms, to abandon that position now. The UK should keep its place in the single marketplace and allow the other European countries to negotiate it out of it, not give it away before the first word is spoken in the negotiations.”

In the coming weeks and months we are likely to see this trickle of No to Yes turning into a torrent as the full economic sand politics implications of Brexit Means Trump becomes clear and the democratic deficit looms large.

Now we enter the next stage as the Brexit Fantasy meets European reality. Iain Macwhirter explained: ‘Britain has long been regarded as a reluctant member of the EU but now we’re being seen as a potential enemy. This is hardly surprising, given the dismissive and often contemptuous terms in which the EU has been described by Brexit MPs, not least by the Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson. He spent most of his journalistic career demonising Brussels as some kind of petty dictatorship. His confederates in the Commons, Tory MPs Bill Cash and Jacob Rees Mogg, spoke in the debate comparing Brexit to Waterloo and Agincourt, revealing their malign view of the EU as some kind of evil foreign empire. The Article 50 debate was Little England’s finest hour.”

The soundbites and lying are over, its reality now, and smart and decent people are waking up. They will have a significant role to play in any coming referendum and are very welcome.

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