How to start your acting career in Scotland, find acting jobs and the expected cost of living in Edinburgh and Glasgow for 2023
Scotland is steeped in culture that goes way beyond its famous ceilidhs and iconic bagpipes. The country’s breathtaking scenery played the backdrop for films such as Harry Potter, Sunshine on Leith and James Bond: Skyfall. Historical time-travelling drama Outlander – now in its seventh season – created a massive tourism boost for Scotland, attracting fans from around the world to tour its filming locations.
Outlander’s lead actor Sam Heughan said of the show’s popularity, “It’s been life-changing for the tourism industry and also for our careers.”
With an impressive choice of drama schools and acting programmes, Scotland has produced a multitude of talented actors such as Ewan McGregor, Sean Connery and Karen Gillan.
In short, Scotland is ideal for aspiring actors or those wanting to establish a career, with Glasgow and Edinburgh providing ideal bases for work in TV, film and theatre.
If you’re living in Scotland or thinking of moving there and want to establish an acting career, this guide will cover everything you need to know.
Actor Training in Scotland
The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland is ranked sixth best in the world of institutions to study performing arts. The Glasgow institution offers a BA (Hons) Acting and a BA (Hons) Musical Theatre course and students can utilise the school’s first-class facilities with five performance venues.
The conservatoire’s impressive alumni include James McAvoy, Richard Madden and Ncuti Gatwa. Gatwa, who graduated in 2013, praised RCS for the atmosphere among students and staff, “Its approach was very personal.”
Find out more about The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland’s entry requirements and how to apply here.
Other full and part-time options throughout Scotland:
Queen Margaret University – Edinburgh
- BA (Hons) Acting and Performance (two years)
- BA (Hons) Performance (four years)
- BA Musical Theatre (one year, Motherwell campus, three days a week)
- BA Acting (one year full-time, Coatbridge campus, three days a week)
Acting Coach Scotland – Glasgow
- Foundation Acting course (one year)
- Professional Diploma for Stage and Screen (one year)
- Acting Coach Scotland also offers a range of part-time evening/weekend and online courses
GPRO – Glasgow
- Acting and Performance (one year)
What Acting Work is There in Scotland?
There’s an abundance of top-quality TV shows hailing from Scotland including Shetland, Guilt, Outlander and The Nest. River City is BBC Scotland’s flagship drama and the country’s long-running soap opera.
BBC Alba is a digital channel broadcasting daily Scottish Gaelic-language programmes. Actors native to the language can contact BBC Alba and MG Alba for further casting information.
Notable casting directors working in Scotland include Kahleen Crawford Casting, Claire Catterson and Simone Pereira-Hind and Anna Dawson at SPH Casting. Orla O’Connor Casting and Des Hamilton Casting have a Glasgow and London base.
The National Theatre of Scotland’s office is based in Glasgow and has lots of exciting opportunities for performers. Playwrights’ Studio Scotland often needs actors, so it’s also a good idea to follow them online.
Take a look at Spotlight’s guide for more information on casting directors and agents in Scotland.
The Edinburgh Fringe Festival takes place every August and is a significant cultural event. In 2022, 2.2 million tickets were issued, generating an estimated £1 billion for the Scottish economy.
The Fringe plays an important role in finding new talent and launching the careers of many actors, including Phoebe Waller-Bridge, who debuted her iconic one-woman show Fleabag in 2013. Thousands of performances take place throughout August, providing plenty of chances for you to showcase your work.
It can also be a great opportunity to check out what other actors are doing, allowing you to find inspiration and make connections with other creatives in the industry.
Take a look at Spotlight’s Edinburgh Fringe guide for more information about attending and performing at the Fringe.
How to Find Auditions in Scotland
There’s a thriving theatre scene in Scotland and major venues include the Tron Theatre, Traverse Theatre, Citizens Theatre and Dundee Rep. A range of smaller venues operate throughout the country, bringing theatre to rural communities.
The National Theatre of Scotland offers artists free year-round opportunities, including acting workshops and feedback on audition self-tapes. The theatre has an in-house casting coordinator who manages the open calls and workshops and the artistic director and associate artists regularly attend shows throughout the UK who welcome invitations to attend performances.
Take a look at the National Theatre of Scotland’s casting information.
There is a yearly initiative running in both Edinburgh and Glasgow called the 48hr Film Festival, where you get a team together and make a film in 48 hours which can be a great way to meet local writers and directors. There are also regular Stage2Page events in both these cities where performers can network with others in the industry:
We also advise actors to follow the fantastic Scottish Casting Workshop that is making castings more accessible for graduates across the country. Similarly for recent graduates, keep your eye on The Scottish Graduate Showcase.
Cost of Living in Scotland
The capital city of Edinburgh is Scotland’s most expensive city – mainly due to high rental prices, however, more affordable options can be found on the outskirts of the city.
Other cities to consider living in include Dundee, with great nightlife and beautiful beaches; Aberdeen, which has impressive architecture; and the small city of Stirling which is packed with history and has fast train connections to Glasgow and Edinburgh.
- One bedroom flat: £674-£1,001
- Two bedroom flat: £683-£1,482
- One bedroom flat: £621-£851
- Two bedroom flat: £635-£1,171
- One bedroom flat: £445-£640
- Two bedroom flat: £593-£786
- One bedroom flat: £751-£997
- Two bedroom flat: £696-£1,288
- One bedroom flat: £429-£472
- Two bedroom flat: £477-£838
Another way to stay in touch with the industry while supporting yourself is by getting a part-time job. Check out local theatres like the Festival Theatre in Edinburgh or the Theatre Royal and King’s Theatre in Glasgow for front-of-house jobs or roles at the cinema.
It’s a great way to immerse yourself and keep up to date with productions – as is getting a job as a runner. For anybody Glasgow-based, River City has a great training scheme for this.
Overall, Scotland is ideal for actors to develop their careers, with fantastic training facilities and flexible acting programmes. Glasgow and Edinburgh both make great bases for actors and are less than one hour away from each other on a fast train – providing quick access for classes, castings, or a trip to the theatre.
Scotland’s unique scenery continues to attract productions from all over as filming locations that open up exciting opportunities for local performers. BBC Scotland is also based in Glasgow and produces a wealth of programmes, therefore, alongside Scotland’s flourishing theatre scene, actors will not be short of auditions.
Ready to launch your acting career in Scotland? Check out our performer memberships and see if you meet the criteria to join Spotlight.
Joanne Thomson is an actor, writer and director from Glasgow. Graduating from the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, she has worked across BAFTA-winning and Emmy-nominated series and directed internationally award-winning theatre. Her writing has made the BBC Writer’s Room Top 2% and won C21’s coveted screenwriting award and her debut play, ‘Jack in a Box’, was recently longlisted for the David MacLennan Award before being chosen for The Royal Shakespeare Company’s 37 plays.
Headshot credit: Cass Michael
Sarah Ridgway trained as an actor and has dabbled in stand-up comedy. Sarah is now a freelance writer and her credits include Backstage and Actors Pro Expo; she is also passionate about empowering solo female travel.