Last week it was announced that the annual per capita death-rate in Scotland related to illicit drugs went through the 1,000 mark, giving Scotland the unenviable top position in not just the UK, not just the EU, but almost everywhere in what is called “the western world”. The full precise causes of this are unclear, but a significant contribution to the figures are deaths of people from what is now known in official parlance as “the Trainspotting generation”.
These people didn’t die from something they took the day or the week before death. They are now into their fifties and sixties, and they died from accumulated health problems which began in their drug-taking habits in the 1980s.
Naturally enough, the figures became a national news item. Now, it’s not for me to turn down any opportunity for exposure when I have a book to sell. Sky News must have googled Trainspotting, they came up with my name, and contacted me through my publisher. So I agreed to do a live interview with them during the evening. It went fine. I fed them a few questions they could ask me about, and they more or less stuck to them. They were historical – President Nixon’s declaration of the “War on Drugs” in 1971 and the closure of the medical supplies shop in Edinburgh in 1982 where a lot of injectors were buying their equipment. This certainly accelerated to collision between intra-venous drug abuse and the arrival of HIV. Both strategic moments when the authorities should have asked what had changed and tried to get a grip on the situation, rather than go for simple prohibition.
I go into this a little in my book. But for me, the drug scene is, relatively, a side-issue. Of course I know about it – nothing significant about the present scene – because it is part of the background to Welsh’s book Trainspotting. They could certainly have found someone with more knowledge of the drug scene than me. My speciality is the 1990s cultural phenomenon known as Trainspotting. My brother says it was cheap and careless journalism, and I can’t quarrel. But, like I say, who am I to turn down an opportunity to get on the telly?
Meantime, come and join a discussion with me and two other Edinburgh authors at Blackwell’s bookshop tomorrow evening, 1st August at 1800. Or come on one of my tours. Look for the Choose Life Choose Leith tour in the Fringe programme. Or come to discuss with me and Alistair Findlay, a recovering social worker, on the issue of “Moving on from the Trainspotting generation”, 1345 on 20 August. Go onto the Luath Press website Scotlandsfest events page.