Scottish Literature, History, and Culture related media

Here’s a collection of video and audio relating to Scottish literature, history, and culture, all available for free online. Much of it is from the BBC, and some of the BBC content is from iPlayer. Other content was broadcast on the BBC and then made available on iPlayer for a fixed period, but has since been taken down. If the BBC want to release that material commercially, or if they want to re-release that material on iPlayer, I’ll take down my uploads and link to iPlayer or to a commercial supplier.

I don’t own the copyright for any of this material, and I’m not profiting from having made it available: indeed, I pay a not insignificant amount of money to SoundCloud to be able to host this much audio.

Please let me know in the comments if you’d like anything else added to this page.

Andrew Marr’s Great Scots

In the weeks before Scotland’s 2014 independence referendum, the BBC broadcast three television documentaries made by Andrew Marr. Each documentary covered the life of a Scottish Writer: James Boswell, Walter Scott, and Hugh MacDiarmid. You can read the Guardian review of the James Boswell program here, or watch all three programs on Vimeo:

Scotland: The Promised Land

An excellent series of three hour-long documentaries examining the history of early twentieth-century Scotland, originally broadcast on BBC 2 Scotland in March and April of 2016. Episode 3 considers the Scottish Literary/Cultural Renaissance, and has lots of good material on MacDiarmid.

  • Episode 1: The Birth of Modern Scotland —
  • Episode 2: Homes for Highland Heroes —
  • Episode 3: The Cultural Revolution —

Classic Serial: Sunset Song by Lewis Grassic Gibbon

A radio dramatisation of Lewis Grassic Gibbon’s novel (

A History of Scottish Literature

The Cause: A History of Scottish Nationalism

“Billy Kay traces the story of Scottish nationalism from the Wars of Independence to the rise of the SNP and what was perceived as the anglicisation of Scotland in the 20th century.”

This series is still available on iPlayer, and links to iPlayer are listed below. As the episodes disappear, I’ll upload them to SoundCloud and link to them here.

  • Episode 1: The Battle for Scotland — 
  • Episode 2: Free or a Desert — 
  • Episode 3: Flower of Scotland — 
  • Episode 4 — 
  • Episode 5: A Very Special Place — 
  • Episode 6 — 

Some relevant episodes of Desert Island Discs

Malcolm X at the Oxford Union

On 3 December 1964, a few months before his assassination, Malcolm X addressed the Oxford Union, speaking in favour of the motion, “extremism in the defence of liberty is no vice; moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue”. MacDiarmid also spoke in support of the motion.

BBC Radio 4’s “Archive on 4” program broadcast a documentary to mark the fiftieth anniversary of the debate, which is still available on iPlayer here. I’ve download a copy of it, so please let me know if it disappears from iPlayer and I’ll upload it to SoundCloud.

Here’s a recording of the full debate:

Margaret Tait’s “Hugh MacDiarmid: A Portrait” (1964)

Hugh MacDiarmid on the Anglo-Scottish Establishment

I can’t remember where this is from: it’s a recording of MacDiarmid reading the passage from Lucky Poet in which he describes “the whole gang of high mucky-mucks, famous fatheads, old wives of both sexes”:

Scots Gothic: A Portrait of Edgar Allan Poe in Ayrshire

First broadcast on BBC Radio Scotland. “As a child, when Edgar Poe lost both his parents, he was taken in by the family of a Virginia tobacco merchant, John Allan. When Edgar was six, the Allans came home to Irvine for an extended visit. Billy Kay discovers the Ayrshire of “ghaists an houlets”, “witches and warlocks”, bodysnatchers, premature burials and cannibals – and asks whether Poe’s macabre imagination took fire in this cauldron of Scots Gothic.”