Doubleness is such a staple of Scottish fiction, a reflection of our national character, that we barely notice it any more.

But lately it has been seeping into our non-fiction too, specifically into memoir. It's there, for instance, in the play between veracity and fiction in Janice Galloway's This Is Not About Me and All Made Up. And now it's present in Damian Barr's recollection of growing up in the west of Scotland in his memoir, Maggie And Me.

This isn't to suggest exactly that the youthful Barr saw Margaret Thatcher as some kind of twin or copy of himself. But she did reflect something back at him: a focus on the individual, a message that what you could achieve was up to you. As a result, Barr will always, one suspects, be in two minds about her.

"She was omnipresent," he says of the 1980s when he was growing up. "You couldn't help absorbing her message or reacting against it. I couldn't believe she closed Ravenscraig after she promised she wouldn't. It felt like a real betrayal. But she did do some good and I don't think there's anything wrong with saying that. To some people, though, it makes me a class traitor."

Barr's parents split up when he was very young, and he lived mainly with his mother and her boyfriend, who bullied him relentlessly. After that relationship ended and his mother suffered a serious illness, Barr's life went from bad to worse; home was where different men stayed in various states of inebriation and where he suffered abuse in several forms. As he says now, he was never sure when his bedroom door was going to be kicked in, when there would be enough electricity in the meter. Home was a place to escape from, and he did that as soon as he could.

"There's a culture of secrecy in Scotland," he says to explain why he said so little about what he endured to his parents or his teachers. "There's so much shame, you don't air your dirty washing in public. Yet we see ourselves as victims all the time."

It's all meant something of a double life for Barr. In Brighton, where he lives, he runs the Shoreditch Literary Salon and is openly gay, but when he first started working as a Times journalist after leaving university, he'd be asked which public school he attended. Nobody in his new life had a clue about his past.

Until he wrote this book, he feels he was two people: the boy who suffered abuse as a child and the successful adult he became. It's the kind of doubleness people aren't comfortable with. It has made him a Labour supporter but someone who praises Thatcher for "reforming the benefits system - there was a sense of entitlement that some people have, and that may have been appropriate in the past, but it isn't now". It's made him unsure about living in Scotland even though he loves coming back here, because "I don't think I'd be allowed to be myself". Yet at the same time, he talks about identity being a construct. What spoke to him most was Thatcher's message that you could be whoever you wanted to be.

This isn't to say that Barr is being contradictory or disingenuous - he's happy to talk frankly and he radiates warmth and generosity. It's more that he really is two people: a victim of abuse but a survivor too. Margaret Thatcher inspired him but she was also behind Clause 28 ("unforgivable"). He's a gay Scottish man inhabiting an English literary scene, who will always have his past with him, although it's less of a burden now than it was before he wrote the book.

What you see with him is what you get - yet he admits there's lots more in his memoir that he cut out. He's what we might call a good double, then. And if some still find that hard to take, he nevertheless fits perfectly, and perhaps more easily than he might ever have imagined, into a Scottish literary tradition.

Maggie And Me is published by Bloomsbury, £14.99. Damian Barr is at the EIBF on August 17, 7pm