Billy Kay: Broadcaster with a firm commitment to ‘the cause’

Billy Kay

By a Reporter

Top Scots broadcaster and social historian Billy Kay is to re-visit the referendum in an updated version of his radio documentary The Cause which starts next week – and we have an exclusive preview.

Billy made a welcome return to our studio to speak about The Cause, which will be broadcast by Radio Scotland in a new six-part series that starts next Tuesday (Aug 11).

Mr KayHe has updated the documentary series to cover the period of the referendum and its subsequent fall-out, and interviewed many of the key players involved.

That includes the recollections of now First Minister Nicola Sturgeon realised that Scottish nationalism was to experience an unprecedented “resurrection” (in Kay’s words) within hours of last September’s No vote. It was when her husband noticed that hundreds of people were joining the SNP in the immediate aftermath of the vote.

SNP membership famously leapt from around 26,000 to more than 100,000 people during the weeks that followed the poll.

Kay is a declared supporter of independence, and a fair-minded one. He is infatuated with Scottish history, and the stories of Bannckburn, Waterloo and individuals like R.B. Cunningham Graham trip from his tongue as he discusses the nation’s history.

We have posted his interview with Derek Bateman as an audio file (above) and video file (below).

The original five-part documentary series The Cause will be broadcast on Radio Scotland from Tuesday August 11 until September 8, with a specially produced sixth part covering the post referendum period on September 15. Each programme will go out at 13.30 on Tuesdays, to be repeated on the following Sundays at 0700. Each episode will also be available on the BBC iPlayer.

Keep up with Billy Kay here


  1. Billy Kay is a true ‘keeper of the flame’ of the Scottish culture, in particular our language. His book ‘The Mither Tung’ was an eye-opener to me, a native Scots speaker, who despite this, had lost, and probably has continued to lose my knowledge of oor leid since childhood.

    People like Billy have the erudition and clear sighted academic approach that is required to persuade the couple of million Scots who don’t even realise that it is our main language. The ‘cringe’ induced by centuries of suppression and brain washing by bogus concepts such as R.P. has got such a grip in our society that major work is required like programmes such as this.

    Ironically, loyalist Ulster recognises ‘Scots’ as an official language, and it is proudly supported by people whose fellow travellers on this side of the Irish Sea ,often hold it in contempt ,despite being often (unconscious) experts in its use.

  2. Sometimes late at night. When i think of Scotland’s plight I shed a silent tear But come the dawn the fight goes on. We will beat them yit nae fear. As it says in the song and in freedoms name we will rise again Keep going

  3. The piece at the end was astonishing. Scottish police referring to the Saltire, their national flag, as ‘that filthy rag’. Hard to believe that happened in the 80s. I came round to Scottish Nationalism in the late 90s when my boyfriend told me of the lies Scottish Labour had told their own people in the 1970s about the value of the oil, ie. worth next to nothing and would soon run out. I was livid. I remember listening to a programme on Radio 4 on a Monday night in January 2004, where two prominent Scottish Labour MPs proudly stated that they had lied to the people of Scotland about the value of the oil. Reasoning that it wouldn’t be good for the unity of the United Kindom if the Scots realised how wealthy they really were. I nearly spat out my cup of tea. Looking forward to listening to Billy Kay’s programme. Good discussion Derek and glad you are back from your ‘leave of absence’.

  4. A brilliant interview. What a voice Billy Kay has!

    Someone like me could never have attracted someone of the calibre of Billy Kay to present this to Newsnet. The old Newsnet could never have conducted an interview of the quality produced by Derek Bateman. Bravo!

    This is partly why Newsnet was handed over to the guys who are now nurturing a real alternative media. Not, note a ‘New Media’, that will come in time.

    ‘Resurrection’ … ‘The 24 hours’ is something I am surprised has never been articulated yet in the media. The Yes campaign almost exploded after the ‘No’ vote. It was incredible to those of us close to ‘ground zero’. September 19th 2014 was the day the Union balloon burts!

    Jim Lynch:
    Was one of the first people ever to donate to Newsnet Scotland. Indeed there is a very close coincidental link between the Newsnet and the Scots Independent. An anecdote for another time.

    A generation? They are here now Derek. The longer we wait, the larger the majority will be. It is indeed inevitable.

    Special Branch Raid … The Saltire ‘A Rag’ … indeed.

      • I.E.
        I had hoped this site was a bit more than a self preservation society.
        We can but hope.

        • pps
          What the hell was “The great defeat” D B used in his intro ? Are you by any chance a BBC mole Derek ? (You can hoy the man out of aunty Beeb, but you can’t hoy the Beeb out of the man. Well, you have to make a crust I suppose..)

          Billy K is no great shakes, his namesake Danny’s voice was was great, but.

  5. It’s horrific to think that in the 1980s that the Saltire was referred to as ‘that rag’.

    In the 1990s I was leafletting for a Scottish Parliament in a ‘respectable’ stair in Edinburgh but I could never have expected the reaction I got from one furious old biddy who threw the leaflet back in my face, screaming – yes, literally screaming – ‘Don’t come here with your filth! We can’t have a Scottish Parliament! We don’t have the brains! Everybody clever goes to England! Don’t you know that?’

    OK, I get that she didn’t like the idea of a Scottish Parliament… but to oppose it (and me) to the extent of thrusting my leaflet back in my face and coming out with that rant… was extraordinary.

    Because at that time apartheid was coming apart in South Africa. Every day we saw on our TVs the sight of South Africans marching and dancing, chanting ‘Freedom!’ and here was an elderly woman in Edinburgh so completely brain-washed by 300 years of being a subordinate in an imperial union that she could not believe we were equal beings with those who lived south of the Tweed…

    That’s what 300 years of an assymetric imperial union does to you.

  6. I am glad “The Cause” is being broadcast on BBC Scotland , even at the prime times of 13.30 on Tuesdays and 07.00 on Sundays. I wonder if the BBC Scotland management ever thought of replacing Scotland 2015 for six weeks with “The Cause”. Would that be too commercially astute for them, after all they do not care about viewing numbers for Scotland 2015 which is why they will not reveal them.

  7. One day the BBC might reveal what Scotland2015 is all about, nodrog, Its editorial value is not immediately obvious…

  8. Listened to the broadcast this afternoon. Thank you Billy I thoroughly enjoyed it and I still say it should be on in place of Scotland 2015. Liked the comments – the BBC was an “Anglo-Saxophone” and the Fergus Ewing comment that the SNP only became argumentative after the second member joined.
    Noted today that some Lib Dem member is worried that the UK could become a one party state if Labour disintegrates as is forecast. Was that not the same argument put forward if Scotland became Independent?


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