He has been one of Scotland’s leading acting talents for five decades since his early stage appearances with comics Leonard Rossiter and Billy Connolly.
Now Bill Paterson, who is best known for his roles in The Crow Road TV drama and the classic 1980s comedy Comfort and Joy, is set to be honoured with a lifetime achievement award at Scotland’s film and TV Oscars.
Just weeks after winning plaudits for his return to the stage in Scotland with Brian Cox, 70-year-old Paterson is to get an outstanding achievement award at this weekend’s BAFTA Scotland ceremony.
Glasgow-born Paterson – one of the stars of the American sci-fi fantasy series Outlander, which is set and shot in Scotland, and the new Dad’s Army film – will receive the nation’s highest broadcasting honour for services to film and television.
The actor today launched a stout defence of the BBC and called on his colleagues in the industry to defend the corporation in the face of looming cuts from the Westminster government. Its funding is expected to be cut by 20 per cent in the next five years.
Paterson, who launched his professional acting career with Glasgow’s Citizens Theatre almost half a century ago, went on to perform with John McGrath’s celebrated theatre company 7:84, starring in its landmark play The Cheviot, The Stag and the Black Black Oil.
His screen appearances have included The Killing Fields, The Witches, The Singing Detective, Sea of Souls, Law and Order and Doctor Who. He is about to appear in a new TV film about Winston Churchill, playing his doctor in 1953 when he suffered a life-threatening stroke.
Paterson will follow in the footsteps of both Connolly and Comfort and Joy’s Bill Forsyth when he collects the honour on Sunday night. Other recent winners have included the actors Richard Wilson and Robbie Coltrane, and broadcasters Lorraine Kelly and Kirsty Wark.
Two other outstanding contribution awards will be presented at Sunday’s event – to Channel 4’s head of news and current affairs, Dorothy Byrne for her broadcasting career, and an industry craft honour for “prop-master” David Balfour, whose films include The Mummy and Hugo.
Paterson said he was “beyond chuffed” when he was approached by the academy and asked to attend the ceremony as a guest of honour.
He added: “I thought it was terrific. It was a great honour. I didn’t hesitate for a moment to say yes. It entirely unexpected to be told I was to receive such aprestigious award.”
Speaking about the impact of the BBC cutbacks, Paterson said: “There is certainly a big threat to the BBC at the moment. It cannot be taken for granted with this government. The case really has to be made that we have got an incredible asset on so many levels that needs to be incredibly protected. We will not miss it until it’s gone.
“As someone who earns a good bit of my living from the BBC I am not as impartial as the ordinary punter. But I’ve been paying my licence fee forever, and have also been paying full income tax, without escaping a penny of it, all of my working life, so I expect the government to spend it wisely and I don’t mind it spending it on the BBC.”