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Author Of 'Trainspotting' Backs Scotland's Bid For Independence


Polls are extremely close for next week's referendum in Scotland on declaring independence from the United Kingdom. Yesterday we heard a view of this from London and today we speak with the Scottish author who wrote "Trainspotting," a novel that became a famous movie. One of the characters in that movie says, it's terrible being Scottish dominated by England.

Or, to be precise, he puts it this way...


EWAN MCGREGOR: (as Mark "Rent-Boy" Renton) We're the lowest of the low. The scum of the [bleep] Earth. The most wretched, miserable, servile, pathetic trash that was ever [bleep] into civilization. Some people hate the English; I don't. They're just [bleep]. We, on the other hand are colonized by [bleep]. Can't even find a decent culture to be colonized by.

INSKEEP: Kind of hard to go on after that, but we'll try to continue this story. We reached out to "Trainspotting" author, Irvine Welsh, who is in Chicago right now. And we started by asking if Welsh feels the same way about England that his character did.

IRVINE WELSH: No, not at all. I mean, that was a book about the '80s and I think, to me, there's been three phases of the whole Scottish independence movement. And the first phase was, basically, it's all the English's fault. It was a very narrow, childish way of looking at things. The second phase was basically saying it's all our fault - you know, we're doing this to ourselves. Which is a very kind of un-ingratiating stance too because it's very self-loathing. The third phase that we're in now comes from the new generation of Scots - and you know, theirs is a very pragmatic view. It's like, it's not about looking back and saying, whose fault is it? It doesn't really matter whose fault it is. The situation that we're in now has arisen from kind of historical and cultural factors. And part of the historical and cultural factors are that all the things that bound Britain together as an entity, industry, empire the (unintelligible) from two world wars; all that's gone. And the new stuff that we put in after the second world war - the welfare state, the National Health Service - that's been systematically destroyed by the three main parties; the Conservatives, Liberal and Liberal Democrats, over the last 35 years. So there isn't really anything to sell the union on and this is why it's crumbling.

INSKEEP: You've mentioned mainly economic arguments for separation from the larger United Kingdom. But I do wonder, wouldn't detaching Scotland from this much larger economy next-door make the economy even worse?

WELSH: Well, I mean, you can talk about it in terms of all the administrative stuff that has to be sorted out and done. But Scotland is very much a resource-rich and population-light country. And any country that's resource-rich and population-light is going to do well.

INSKEEP: Because there's oil and things like that?

WELSH: Oil's the sort of cream on it. But I mean, if you look at it, you've got 5 million people. You've got loads of forestry, you've got loads of fish, you've got a big fishing industry, you've still got an engineering industry. You've got a massive tourism industry, you know, you've got the whiskey industry. But all this is just for 5 million people, you know. So you look at all these resources and you think to yourself, why isn't this one of the richest countries in the world? And The Financial Times says that this should be in the top 20 of wealthy countries in the world.

INSKEEP: One other thing - just a little while ago when we were talking, you mentioned that you were a Scottish man who's lived in England, who also has an Irish background and is named Welsh - all four parts of the U.K. Aren't you basically a one- man United Kingdom?

WELSH: Yeah. And always will be. I'm kind of - I'm not United Kingdom; Britain - I mean, I'm loyal to the British Isles. And that's where all my friends and family kind of come from and originate from. But we don't need a centralized government in one of these countries telling us what to do to be together. Being together and being unified is about having shared experiences and shared friendships and shared cultural values. It's not about having a shared government of elitists out of touch tossed from Eton.

INSKEEP: Irvine Welsh, thanks very much.

WELSH: Thank you.

INSKEEP: That's the Scottish author Irvine Welsh, who wrote "Trainspotting."

It's NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.