Welsh makes a Big Issue out of turning tables on Cool Britannia

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THE TOUGH, uncensored voice of modern Scottish literature has turned its attention to debunking England and all it stands for.

In today's edition of the weekly magazine the Big Issue, guest editor Irvine Welsh, author of Trainspotting and The Acid House, mercilessly attacks the southern concept of Cool Britannia - along with some of the more traditional myths about Englishness.

In an essay inspired by moves towards national devolution, Welsh tries to nail some of the lies that surround the idea of being English.

He accuses the Government of manipulating the image of the country as a marketing tool and claims there is no real basis for England's trendy public relations campaign.

"It is amazing how clearly he, as a Scot, can write about England," said Sally Stainton, a member of staff at the London-based charitable publication which was set up by John Bird in 1991 and is sold by, and for, homeless people.

The former drug addict and author was invited to edit the magazine for a week by its current editor, Matthew Collin, because of his understanding of the alternative lifestyles of the homeless.

The front cover of Welsh's issue of the magazine shows a soccer fan wearing Union Jack face-paint and, inside, the writer tackles what he regards as phoney attitudes to British hooliganism.

The views of football writers Gary Armstrong and John King and of the English actresses Kathy Burke and Marianne Jean-Baptiste are also sought.

"Irvine commissioned a variety of his favourite people to look at the meaning of the word English and he took his editing work over the week very seriously," Miss Stainton said. Welsh, whose new book, Filth, was launched on Saturday, appears to have thrown himself into the editorial task. "Irvine came into the office all week and most of the ideas were his own," said Miss Stainton.

In the early 1980s Welsh fell into drug addiction, played in punk bands, and drifted between Edinburgh and London, often sleeping rough.