Scottish literature in the eighteenth century is literature written in Scotland or by Scottish writers in the eighteenth century. It includes literature written in English, Scottish Gaelic and Scots, in forms including poetry, drama and novels. After the Union in 1707 Scottish literature developed a distinct national identity. Allan Ramsay led a "vernacular revival", the trend for pastoral poetry and developed the Habbie stanza. He was part of a community of poets working in Scots and English who included William Hamilton of Gilbertfield, Robert Crawford, Alexander Ross, William Hamilton of Bangour, Alison Rutherford Cockburn, and James Thomson. The eighteenth century was also a period of innovation in Gaelic vernacular poetry. Major figures included Rob Donn Mackay, Donnchadh Bàn Mac an t-Saoir, Uillean Ross and Alasdair mac Mhaighstir Alasdair, who helped inspire a new form of nature poetry. James Macpherson was the first Scottish poet to gain an international reputation, claiming to have found poetry written by Ossian. Robert Burns is widely regarded as the national poet.

Drama was pursued by Scottish playwrights in London such as Catherine Trotter and David Crawford, who developed the character of the stage Scot. Newburgh Hamilton produced comedies and later wrote the libretto for Handel's Samson (1743). James Thomson's plays often dealt with the contest between public duty and private feelings. David Mallet's Eurydice (1731) was accused of being a coded Jacobite play. The opera Masque of Alfred (1740) was a collaboration between Thompson, Mallet and composer Thomas Arne, with Thompson supplying the lyrics to the patriotic song Rule, Britannia!. Inside Scotland drama faced hostility from the Kirk. Allan Ramsay was a major supporter of Scottish theatre, establishing a small theatre in Carruber's Close in Edinburgh, and there is evidence of companies elsewhere in Scotland, but the 1737 Licensing Act made their activities illegal and these theatres soon closed. A three-decade period followed where institutional and organised drama was in abeyance. The subterfuge of offering a free drama at the end of a musical performance was adopted. Douglas, by minister John Home, was first performed in 1756 in Edinburgh. It was a success in both Scotland and England but caused a controversy with the kirk that probably led Home to leave Scotland for London. Other emigres to London included Tobias Smollett. Despite the opposition of the church theatre going began to emerge as a regular part of elite life in Scotland. The government granted the first licence to a Scottish theatre under the act in 1767.

 

In the later eighteenth century, many plays were written for and performed by small amateur companies and were not published and so most have been lost. Towards the end of the century there were "closet dramas", primarily designed to be read. Important Scottish playwrights included Henry Mackenzie, John Logan's, Archibald Maclaren and Joanna Baillie. In this century the novel emerged as a major element of Scottish literary and critical life. Tobias Smollett's picaresque novels, such as The Adventures of Roderick Random and The Adventures of Peregrine Pickle mean that he is often seen as Scotland's first novelist. Other Scots who contributed to the development of the novel in the eighteenth century include Henry Mackenzie, John Moore and Jean Marishall.