In the early twentieth century there was a new surge of activity in Scottish literature, influenced by modernism and resurgent nationalism, known as the Scottish Renaissance. The leading figure, Hugh MacDiarmid, attempted to revive the Scots language as a medium for serious literature in poetic works including "A Drunk Man Looks at the Thistle" (1926), developing a form of Synthetic Scots. Other writers connected with the movement included Edwin Muir and William Soutar. Writers that emerged after the Second World War writing in Scots included Robert Garioch and Sydney Goodsir Smith. Those working in English included Norman MacCaig, George Bruce, Maurice Lindsay and George Mackay Brown. The parallel revitalisation of Gaelic poetry, known as the Scottish Gaelic Renaissance was largely due to the work of Sorley Maclean. The generation of poets that grew up in the postwar period included Douglas Dunn, Tom Leonard, Liz Lochhead. The 1980s and 1990s saw the emergence of a new generation of Scottish poets that became leading figures on the UK stage, including Don Paterson, Robert Crawford, Carol Ann Duffy, Kathleen Jamie and Jackie Kay. Among the most important novels of the early twentieth century was The House with the Green Shutters by George Douglas Brown, which broke with the Kailyard tradition. John Buchan played a major role in the creation of the modern thriller with The Thirty-Nine Steps and Greenmantle. The Scottish Renaissance increasingly focused on the novel. Major figures included Neil Gunn, George Blake, A. J. Cronin, Eric Linklater and Lewis Grassic Gibbon. There were also a large number of female authors associated with the movement, who included Catherine Carswell, Willa Muir, Nan Shepherd and Naomi Mitchison. Many major Scottish post-war novelists, such as Robin Jenkins, Jessie Kesson, Muriel Spark, Alexander Trocchi and James Kennaway spent most of their lives outside Scotland, but often dealt with Scottish themes. Successful mass-market works included the action novels of Alistair MacLean and the historical fiction of Dorothy Dunnett.

A younger generation of novelists that emerged in the 1960s and 1970s included Allan Massie, Shena Mackay and Alan Spence. Working class identity continued to be explored by Archie Hind, Alan Sharp, George Friel and William McIlvanney. From the 1980s Scottish literature enjoyed another major revival, with figures including Alasdair Gray, James Kelman, Irvine Welsh, Alan Warner, Janice Galloway, A. L. Kennedy, Iain Banks, Andrew Crumey, Candia McWilliam, Frank Kuppner and Andrew O'Hagan. In genre fiction Iain Banks, writing as Iain M. Banks, produced ground-breaking science fiction and Scottish crime fiction has been a major area of growth with the success of novelists including Frederic Lindsay, Quintin Jardine, Val McDermid, Denise Mina, Christopher Brookmyre, and particularly Ian Rankin and his Inspector Rebus novels.[2] The most successful author of Scottish origins in recent years has been J. K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter series.[3] J. M. Barrie is often linked to the Kailyard tradition. His early plays deal with temporary inversions of the normal social order and his later works focus on historical themes. After Barrie the most successful Scottish playwrights of the early twentieth century were John Brandane and James Bridie. Bridie was a prolific playwright and a major figure in developing modern Scottish drama.

The early twentieth century saw the emergence of a tradition of popular or working class theatre. Hundreds of amateur groups were established, particularly in the growing urban centres of the Lowlands. Amateur companies encouraged native playwrights, including Robert McLellan. The shift to drama that focused on working class life in the post-war period gained momentum with Robert McLeish's The Gorbals Story and the work of Ena Lamont Stewart, Robert Kemp and George Munro. A Scottish theatrical renaissance has been perceived between 1963 and 1971. In the 1970s a large number of plays explored the nature of Scottish identity, including the work of Stewart Conn, Hector Macmillan, Bill Bryden and Roddy McMillan. A new form of independent and politically committed community theatre was begun by 7:84 with their 1973 production of John McGrath's (1935–2002) The Cheviot, the Stag, and the Black Black Oil. The 1960s and 1970s also saw the flourishing of Scottish Gaelic drama, with key figures including Iain Crichton Smith, Tormod Calum Dòmhnallach, Fionnlagh MacLeòid, Donaidh MacIlleathain and Iain Moireach. The political and funding climate changed radically in the 1980s. The Scottish Theatre Company achieved critical success but suffered financial setbacks. By the last two decades of the twentieth century a substantial body of Scottish theatrical writing had built up. Now multiple companies drew on a community of writers. Scottish play writing became increasingly internationalised, with Scottish writers such as Liz Lochhead and Edwin Morgan adapting classic texts, while Jo Clifford and David Greig investigated European themes.