Susan Dalgety: ‘Sick Boy’ US President needs Irvine Welsh treatment

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Trainspotter Irvine Welsh is at it again. No, I don’t mean writing another bad novel, though judging from the reviews of Dead Men’s Trousers it seems he may have spewed out another foul-mouthed turkey … sorry, best-seller.

No, professional schemie Mr Welsh is doing what he does best, crassly exploiting Leith and its citizens to promote his latest money-making venture.

In a well-timed rant a few days ago, he warned that Leith was in danger of being ruined by the “crass exploitation” of property developers, and that the area was at risk of being “completely destroyed”.

“Why would anyone want to go there?” he asked mournfully, before jetting back home to his art-deco apartment on Miami beach.

READ MORE: Irvine Welsh set to tackle American gun violence in next novel

Now don’t get me wrong, I think Welsh is a genius. Or at least was. His first novel, Trainspotting, published 25 years ago is a work of modern art.

His brilliant snapshot of 1980s Edinburgh exposed an underworld of casual drug-taking and crime that shocked the city’s matrons to their core.

And in Spud, Renton, Sick Boy and Begbie, he created some of the most memorable characters in contemporary culture.

Since then, like many young artists who have a big hit at the start of their career, he has struggled to live up to his early promise.

Indeed, I would argue his reputation is now largely dependent on the success of Danny Boyle’s films, Trainspotting and its sequel, T2. Now they truly are outstanding.

But you can’t keep a good self-publicist down, so every time Mr Welsh has a book to promote, he makes a flying visit to Leith and trumpets some inane comments about Scottish working-class culture.

After pontificating about the threat of student flats to Leith’s unique identity, he gave an interview at the weekend where he declared that, thanks to living in America, he is now much more in touch with his feelings.

According to the sage of Muirhouse (or is it Miami?), his personal development scares the hell out of his fellow Scots as we are all repressed junkies.

Revealing your emotions makes you “a pain in the arse”, he said, “especially if you go back to Scotland, where everybody is threatened by it. They’re like, ‘Shut the f*** up and let’s do a line in the toilet.’”

READ MORE: Interview: Irvine Welsh on his new novel, Trainspotting and Trump

Now that might have been Spud’s reaction in 1987, but these days a young Scot, whether from Leith or Liberton, is more likely to sit you down with a large latte and give you big hug, than offer you some smack and a punch in the face.

Scotland, Edinburgh and Leith have all moved on since Renton’s rant about Scots being the lowest of the low, or as Ewan McGregor memorably spat out in the first Trainspotting film, “the most wretched, miserable servile, pathetic trash that was every s*** into civilisation”.

That is not to say we don’t have our problems. We still drink too much, eat too much and don’t exercise nearly enough.

And the class divide is as sharp as it was during the Thatcher years. Only now everyone is wearing Primark.

But Welsh is a stranger in his own land. His daily reality is fame, therapy and sunshine, not the number 16 bus, Greggs and relentless grey skies.

He hasn’t really understood Scottish culture for a quarter of a century, and even then he only shone a light on a tiny, dark corner.

Welsh kills off one of his famous four neds in his new – and supposedly his last – Trainspotting novel.

May I respectfully suggest that it is also time he abandoned his out-of-date, schemie persona, and focused his observations – and his writing – on his home country, the United States of America.

He says that he’s written a draft about mass shootings in the US and Donald Trump. Irvine Welsh on the Sick Boy president? Now that might be worth reading.