A few years back I read the very fine Children of Albion Rovers, a compendium of writing by young Scottish authors, compiled by Rebel Inc’s Kevin Williamson in 1996, and featuring earlier work by a certain up-and- coming Irvine Welsh. One of the stories was by Paul Reekie. “Submission” was an enjoyably scrappy and digressive look into the world of down-at-heel grimy prole auto-didacts which it seemed was his forte. Paul Reekie was also a performance poet and by all accounts a mighty character on the Edinburgh scene, both literary and otherwise. I hadn’t read anything else by him, but was always glad I’d read
Fast forward to this week, reading an ‘In the Back’ piece in the latest Private Eye. I had missed the fact that last year Reekie, who had long suffered from severe depression, committed suicide at the age of 48. It appears it was not this in itself which pushed him to the edge, but rather the fact the state was no longer prepared to support someone in his condition. He didn’t leave a suicide note, but near his body was the notification letter he received informing him his benefits were to be slashed, making his life unbearable. Here’s an earlier piece in the Scotsman covering the story. Reekie, being the inspirational character he clearly seemed to be, inspired a literary and musical tribute event from friends and admirers, including Irvine Welsh, Kevin Williamson and Vic Goddard of Subway Sect.
Reekie had been “assessed” by the company Atos, an outsourced company hired by Cameron, Clegg and Osborne to drive down spending on disability, in a completely impartial way of course. Private Eye reports that up to 40% of its judgements are being contested in court, with the tax payer picking up the bill (so much for savings.) Of course, it often takes the suffering of an artist to highlight an injustice happening to many others. Private Eye says the Black Triangle disability campaign group has reported 16 suicides naming the actions of Atos as a contributory factor. Who knows what iceberg of human misery floats beneath this agonizing tip?