In the early 1970s she joined Philip Hobsbaum’s writers’ group, a crucible of creative activity – other members were Alasdair Gray, James Kelman and Tom Leonard. Her plays include Blood and Ice, Mary Queen of Scots Got Her Head Chopped Off (1987), Perfect Days (2000) and a highly acclaimed adaptation into Scots of Molière’s Tartuffe (1985). She adapted the medieval texts of the York Mystery Plays, performed by a largely amateur cast at York Theatre Royal in 1992 and 1996. Her adaptation of Euripides’ Medea won the Saltire Society Scottish Book of the Year Award in 2001.
She has written for BBC Radio 4: Blood and Ice (11 June 1990), The Perfect Days (16 May 1999), Mary Queen of Scots Got Her Head Chopped Off (11 February 2001) and The Stanley Baxter Playhouse: Mortal Memories (26 June 2006). Like her work for theatre, her poetry is alive with vigorous speech idioms; collections include Memo For Spring (1972), True Confessions and New Clichés (1985), Bagpipe Muzak (1991) and Dreaming Frankenstein: and Collected Poems (1984). She has collaborated with Dundee singer-songwriter Michael Marra.
In January 2011 she was named as the second Scots Makar, or national poet, succeeding Edwin Morgan who had died the previous year.