LET me introduce myself. I am Garry Anthony Fraser and I am an unelected spokesperson for scheme culture in Scotland. This is a culture that is never seen on television, in movies and hardly anywhere in the mainstream. Why not?

We live in an era of polarised voices and click-bait media. Take a walk down any high street in any Scottish city and you will see the diversity in the skin tones and the uniqueness of the many languages that dominate the pavement, along with the shoppers and workers going on about their business.

But is this diversity represented in boardrooms? In newsrooms? In the broadcasting houses? In the programmes which aim to reflect our country back to us?

Very rarely, if at all. My pertinent question in The Sunday National is: why is there not an accurate reflection of Scotland’s real working-class culture in the media and in the arts?

Is it because of cuts to arts projects in disadvantaged communities? Is it because the self-esteem and expectations of kids from schemes are so low they can’t even begin to imagine a career as a writer or a director? Or dare I say, as an artist?

My belief is the arts have been hijacked by folk who – more often than not – have never lived in a deprived scheme and so have no real knowledge of the issues that those folk go through.

Scotland today is not the same Scotland as it was 10, 15 years ago. It’s by and large not the country you see portrayed by the media.

For instance, take my new drama series The Grey Area, which had its premiere on Tuesday, February 26, on the new BBC Scotland channel.

The National: The Grey Area: Stephen, played by Jo Riddell, and Marcus, played by Steven Crawford, in front of Leith's iconic 'Banana Flats'The Grey Area: Stephen, played by Jo Riddell, and Marcus, played by Steven Crawford, in front of Leith's iconic 'Banana Flats'

I believe this drama at last brought back some nobility to characters that are usually stereotyped and categorised in some negative manner.

The night the drama was first shown, I told my cast The Grey Area is only a TV show, but that it can be so much more than that. It can be a vehicle for social change.

It is not inverted snobbery to suggest there are more of us involved in this struggle than there are sitting on the boards which commission or fund projects, so why is our struggle not represented?

Politicians are too busy acting in the theatre of politics to take on this issue and, if am completely honest, our UK and Scottish political systems have also let us down – those of us who live in the country’s most deprived areas.

Successive drugs policies have contributed to an unbelievably high record of drug-related deaths ... 934 in Scotland alone in 2017.

In that same year, there were 680 probably suicides in Scotland. Indeed, the suicide rate in the most deprived tenth of the population was 2.5 times higher than in the least deprived tenth.

That’s the reality of life in our schemes, and it’s my guess that those in charge of arts and culture don’t want to show that reality, and that’s why you don’t hear our voices in that world.

The music soundtrack of The Grey Area is just as important for me as what we see on the screen, because it’s social commentary and, just as our cast is not middle-class white people talking from their perspective but people from the grass-roots up, our music is raw, unapologetic and designed for those who have no voice.

Take as an example this verse from my main actor/rapper in the drama, Zesh: The government just label us cause they are scared of us.

They can lock locks but they can’t stop when we dream For us, The Grey Area is more than a TV programme. We want to be taking our message to Dundee, to Glasgow, to Fife, to Aberdeen, to every scheme. We want to challenge the divisive nature of our media and the political establishment who are part of the very same system that has failed much of our country’s youth.

And because I am an artist who uses my work to reflect the society in which I live, I am sick of people in charge constraining so many voices. What are they really scared of? IN 2013, I made a documentary about my life. The film had a festival run and I found myself in Germany, Holland and Norway. I came back to Scotland and after winning a Bafta new talent award I found myself in a homeless hostel.

I was at the tail-end of a 20-year addiction, having found so much comfort with drugs like heroin and crack cocaine.

In the hostel, I decided to get clean and really start respecting my craft as a writer and director. While I went in to the recovery from addiction, my mind, body and soul was at the lowest they had ever been.

The first six weeks the withdrawals were murder. But slowly and surely, they decreased, and I was like a painter looking at a blank canvas.

I thought to myself: what should I do next? I had just done a documentary and saw no point in doing another one. Nor a short film. But I noticed that the way content was getting consumed was changing, so a TV series or a web series seemed to me the next big thing’ I started looking around me at the strong characters who had also survived childhood traumas and years of addiction, who we know also got clean. Irvine Welsh was one of the guys who got clean and I asked him for advice in early recovery – and his words really did help me.

I remember lying awake at night sweating, PTSD going through the roof and the guy in the next room had slit his wrists ... so there was loads of drama. I pulled out Welsh’s book Skagboys and I thought to myself: if this writer can tell stories, then so can I, cause I’ve lived through it.

I was the generation who came after those characters. So, I tried to gather some really strong guys and lassies from the recovery world and see if I could get them to act and do script read-throughs.

They did that and then started improvising their own lives into the stories, and in these workshops you could hear a pin drop, the drama was so intense.

These weekly workshops were done against the odds. I was on my arse, not eating every day and trying my hardest to stay away from old friends who were still using. The drama classes were going well, and after what seemed like an eternity I got my own flat ... but the hardest lessons were to come.

It’s easy getting a house but being a single man with four kids at the weekends and mental health problems I needed coping mechanisms. Like Spud in T2 I started swapping my addictions and The Grey Area started picking up pace.

Irvine called me and said that Danny Boyle was making T2 and wanted to speak to me as part of the research. I met Danny and we had a great conversation at my office in Leith. I asked him to come up to my workshops and he agreed that night. The energy was amazing, the performances were great, and Danny told me he was going to cast them all in T2.

The National: The main cast of T2The main cast of T2

Initially, I thought I had shot myself in the foot, but I got a call from Danny not long after asking if I wanted the job as the second unit director.

At the T2 premier, the two Ewans and Danny pulled me aside and said I had done a great job and I should be proud of myself.

I was determined to prove a point and with that we went to the BBC and met the team from the new channel. We knew that the young blood in the BBC wanted to challenge the old guard with their new vision for Scottish media and I was shocked but also glad that at least they were trying.

The cinematographer on my autobiography became my writing partner and also the producer, and with his help we got our web series commissioned – and soon after, that short-form web series became a TV drama launched on the new channel.

I took people who were cut from the same cloth as me and taught them how to act for screen. I knew this sort of social realist crime drama with a social conscience was exactly what Scotland needed, and if nothing else, it proves a point for me that Scotland should be celebrating and showcasing talent from Scotland’s schemes rather than making them subjects of poverty porn.

BUT if Scotland needs more of that art – art that represents the country I know -– why isn’t it being made? I remember shooting a documentary during the Scottish referendum and the media most relevant to me at the time was from websites such as Wings Over Scotland and Bella Caledonia.

I spoke to Kenny MacAskill, then cabinet secretary for justice with the Scottish Government, a day before the vote and asked him what would happen to our media if it was a Yes vote – he said everything would probably switch to BBC Alba.

My heart sank because I knew the representation of the country would be no different. What was getting made in film, music or any other mainstream platform would not represent my cultural experience in Scotland.

Where is the art that represents me? Certainly, I don’t find it at the Edinburgh Fringe, and even public bodies such as Creative Scotland – who actually have a good track record – are guilty of shouting about diversity but failing to act.

We should judge people by actions rather than their words.

The big question for me is why, in an age of social media and web hosting platforms, is there not a platform in Scotland that joins up our fractured art scenes or which reflects Scotland’s rich and varied culture?

Companies down south such as SBTV, Link Up TV or Grime Daily have become cultural ambassadors for young men and women from Afro Caribbean background and these platforms have also become vocal campaigners for social issues around race issues such as knife culture.

Some young performers have had criminal convictions due to the Drill music they put out. That’s how much of a threat they are to the system.

But what have we got up here? No real representation of our lives in the media or the arts.

One of the reasons for this is the fact that those living in schemes are more often than not too busy surviving poverty-related issues to become writers, directors, actors or whatever the artistry. Rap music has changed that for a bit, with a new rise in social commentators such as Zesh, Loki, MOG and some others, but this is not the state of affairs all around the country and I guess am wondering why there’s not more.

The National: Mikey, played by Shaun 'Zesh' BhattiMikey, played by Shaun 'Zesh' Bhatti

I don’t have much of a solution to some of the problems I have talked about in this piece.

I would say the only thing I can do is practice what I preach and try to include as much as I can in my own art. Scotland is a changing country and really we should be looking forward to having collective visions of our landscapes and promoting a national identity that is so much more than the whisky and tartans that drape Edinburgh’s Royal Mile.

The romantic Scotland portrayed by Walter Scott is still alive and well, but if we are really looking outwards to more authentic, diverse portrayal, then surely working-class culture has to be properly represented in the arts?