WHEN Irvine Welsh described drug addiction as the “disease of the stupid” he was drawing on what I suppose we must all now call ‘lived experience’. It was all there in Trainspotting, his first great novel and in the movie that followed. Yet, there was a lot more going on in this book than the bleak lives of Renton, Sickboy, Begbie, Spud and Tommy.

For the first time, those who lived on the margins of Edinburgh’s cultural bacchanal, had been given a voice. Multitudes of visitors descend on Edinburgh each year as the festivalisation of the city has grown to encompass the winter months. Few of them ever get beyond the chic boundaries of the New Town where housing schemes such as Muirhouse, Pilton and Wester Hailes lie.

Thus, they never get to hear the authentic voice of Edinburgh or discover that this gilded city has large working-class communities disfigured by the same multi-deprivation indicators that stalk Glasgow.

You can’t really argue with Mr Welsh’s withering judgment of those who choose drugs. He knows more than most why disproportionately large numbers of residents in these neighbourhoods take refuge in the fleeting euphoria provided by narcotics.

READ MORE: Scottish Government proposes decriminalisation of all drugs

No such mitigation exists for those afflicted by the other great “disease of the stupid”, namely the ongoing strategy of the Scottish Government in trying to combat social inequality. Their latest contrivance is to decriminalise all drugs for personal use by somehow bending the UK Government to its will.

Many of those rushing to support this empty and performative measure display their own unique characteristics: they live in Scotland’s salon postcode areas and would need a satnav to locate those streets where the ravages of drug dependency are chiefly evident. For them, it’s little more than a caprice with which to embellish their faux-liberal credentials.

Those living in those districts disfigured by addiction know the real reasons why their friends and relatives are dying. They would rather the Scottish Government used the millions they give to the addiction sector to tackle the root causes of multi-deprivation.

Making theatrical declarations about decriminalisation doesn’t go down well with them. What these families, who have first-hand experience of addiction, really want is the provision of rehabilitation units where their loved ones can have a fighting chance of recovering from their illness.

They know that decriminalisation favours a middle-class cohort for whom a minor drugs-related charge can wreck their children’s chances of following mummy and daddy into law and medicine.

Instead, they find themselves reviled by Scotland’s political and media elites for being ignorant bigots who don’t know what’s good for them. As one academic said: “If only we gave the poor the money we spend to study them.”

The Herald: The film adaptation of Irvine Welsh's TrainspottingThe film adaptation of Irvine Welsh's Trainspotting (Image: free)

The most compelling voice representing Scotland’s addiction recovery community is Annemarie Ward, chief executive of FAVOR UK (Faces and Voices of Recovery). She told me: “The Scottish Government are quite brazenly stoking division with this move. They knew fine well how the UK Government would respond. Such division is not helpful to our Right to Recovery Bill which would enshrine in law the right to seek and be offered all the appropriate treatment options that Scotland has at its disposal.”

Elena Whitham, Scotland’s latest drugs minister, needs to explain why she won’t back this Bill rather than posturing with something she knows Westminster will never grant. It insults those who are left to endure the human cost of her government’s failures.

Those queuing up to back the Scottish Government’s move are familiar to us. They’re drawn mainly from an army of superannuated drones from the myriad task-forces established, arguably, to provide fig-leafs for their paymasters' failures.

They all point to the successes that Portugal has had in decriminalising drugs for personal use. Yet, as Ms Ward pointed out to me when I interviewed her last year, Scotland had already effectively moved to decriminalise this when the Lord Advocate Dorothy Bain announced that those found in possession of Class A drugs would be warned and not prosecuted.

Ms Ward also said what those in recovery have always acknowledged that decriminalisation is only effective as part of a suite of measures intended not simply to ‘manage’ drug use, but to save lives by ending it.

Last week, The Washington Post carried a report on why Portuguese authorities are re-considering their decriminalisation initiative. “Police are less motivated to register people who misuse drugs,” the Post reported, “and there are year-long waits for state-funded rehabilitation treatment even as the number of people seeking help has fallen dramatically.

READ MORE: Westminster must not prevent Scotland decriminalising drugs

“The return in force of visible urban drug use, meanwhile, is leading the mayor and others here to ask an explosive question: Is it time to reconsider this country’s globally hailed drug model?

“These days in Portugal it is forbidden to smoke tobacco outside a school or a hospital. It is forbidden to advertise ice cream and sugar candies. And yet, it is allowed for [people] to be there, injecting drugs," said Rui Moreira, Oporto’s mayor. ‘We’ve normalised it’.”

Annemarie Ward and others on the front-line of addiction believe that there’s a class element in the Scottish Government’s refusal to back the Right to Recovery Bill. When I interviewed her she said that she and her colleagues had begun writing the Bill almost three years ago - but only the Tories had backed it.

Next month, the latest numbers of those dying from addiction will be released. Scotland will no doubt continue to have the worst rate of drugs deaths in Europe. Yet, for reasons that the Scottish Government has yet to explain, they refuse to back the Right to Recovery Bill.

The Bill would provide a legal right to several stages of treatment: residential rehab; community rehab; stabilisation centres; detox and harm reduction services. A doctor would have to justify why you can’t access these. It would provide legal accountability that isn’t currently there.

A suspicion is evident that some of the organisations receiving the thick end of the government’s largesse won’t entertain the Bill because it wasn’t their idea. Perhaps too they’re not overly keen on being questioned about where the taxpayers' money goes and why it always seems to result in failure.