It’s been a good year for Ellie Haddington and the chances are 2020 will be even better. “I’m looking forward and keeping my fingers crossed,” she says, “which is about all you can do.”

But if it’s true that success and exposure bring the opportunity for greater success and greater exposure then it seems likely we’ll be seeing a lot more of the Aberdeen-born actress in the next 12 months, both on the big screen and the (slightly) smaller one in your living room.

Already this year the 64-year-old has featured in Years And Years, Russell T Davies’s dystopian political satire, and if you tune in to BBC Two this month you can see her playing Marion, mother to Anna Maxwell Martin’s Julia in Sharon Horgan’s acerbic Motherland.

But perhaps the juiciest role of the lot is that of Sheila Gemmell, the character she plays in new BBC Scotland four-parter Guilt. Written by Bob Servant creator Neil Forsyth, the black comedy stars Mark Bonnar and Jamie Sives as brothers who knock down and kill a man and then try to cover up the crime. Anything that can go wrong does and if you saw last Thursday’s opening episode, you’ll know it ended on a cliff-hanger line delivered by Haddington. If you didn’t, why weren’t you watching?

“There are a hell of a lot of twists and turns and that made it really exciting to work on,” says Haddington. “Even for us as performers we kept going, ‘Hang on do I know that yet?’. All the way through it, for all the characters, there is this jumping backwards and forward which is drip feeding you information all the time.”

Haddington may be best known for her roles in Bad Girls (she played prison governor Joy Masterton) and Foyles War (as Hilda Pierce), but from Holby City to Coronation Street and The Bill there are few TV staples she hasn’t featured in at one time or another.

Opportunities to return to her homeland to perform in Scottish-based productions have been fewer, however. She featured in David Kane’s Glasgow-set supernatural thriller Sea Of Souls in 2004 but prior to Guilt her only other significant role playing a Scot came in another Edinburgh-set four-parter – Looking After Jo Jo, from 1998, probably one of the hardest-hitting television dramas to come out of Scotland since Peter McDougall’s Just A Boy’s Game two decades earlier. Set on an Edinburgh housing scheme in the 1980s it starred a post-Trainspotting Robert Carlyle in one of his finest roles as petty criminal Jo Jo McCann. Haddington played Jo Jo’s mother May in a cast which also featured Kevin McKidd and a young Michael Nardone, who also appears in Guilt.

Coming in the era of Shallow Grave and Trainspotting, and television hits like Hamish Macbeth, Looking After Jo Jo was commissioned at a time when Scottish drama, Scottish actors and the Scottish screen industries in general were enjoying a mini-Golden Age. Does Haddington think productions like Guilt mark a return to those times?

“Very, very much so,” she says. “There’s a feeling of vibrancy [in Scotland] and so often when that is the case art rises up. I just get the feeling that there’s some extraordinary things coming out of Scotland. I’ve read a couple of things recently that I might be involved in that have just been fantastic. And this [Guilt] is superb. I also love the idea that this is BBC Scotland. It’s not Netflix.”

So what sort of commissioning would she like to see going forward?

“More of this,” she says simply. “It’s a masterful piece of writing from Neil, but it’s very independent, very individual. It’s not following a fashion. We’ll go through a spate where all the crime dramas are very similar or everything has to have a werewolf in it. But there’s something very individual about this and that needs to be encouraged more and more. There’s a lot of playing safe in our profession – and it doesn’t make for good TV.”

Ellie Haddington was born in Aberdeen in 1955, the daughter of a poetry-reciting paper mill worker from Perthshire who had five daughters. She’s the second oldest, “a punchy place to be,” as she puts it. There were no actors in the family and she probably went into the profession, she thinks, “because I failed at everything else. I think one of the great things about being an actor is you carry on playing.”

She was offered a place to study at Glasgow’s Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama (now the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland) but decided against it. One reason was a feeling that it would limit her opportunities. “You did get the feeling that you might get caught up in quite a small circle because Scottish actors were not brought down to England as much as they are now,” she explains. “There wasn’t as much moving about. So I thought if you train down south you can come back to Scotland to work, but you can also work down south.”

There was another reason, which becomes evident when you realise where she did eventually end up – the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School, about as far from Aberdeen as it’s possible to go without getting your feet wet. She was, she admits, very keen to escape the grey city of her birth.

“I have to say Aberdeen was a very different place [when I was growing up] in the 1950s to how it is now,” she says. “I can remember flying up a few years back and sitting next to somebody who worked in oil and he said, ‘It’s fantastic in Aberdeen. All my friends come up to go clubbing’ and I remember thinking: ‘Are we talking about the same Aberdeen?’”.

After leaving drama school Haddington worked in theatre and landed small TV roles throughout the early 1980s. But it wasn’t until the early 1990s that she began to feature regularly in mainstream shows like Kavanagh QC, Wycliffe, Cracker and Heartbeat.

Scan her CV, however, and what’s notable is how much more interesting the roles have become as she has aged. In part that’s because of a necessary change in the industry in terms of diversity.

“I think worldwide we’re getting a bit better,” she says. “There has been a struggle and a push for it but I do think that older women are getting the roles now that if you went back 20 years we would not have been getting. There seemed to be an attitude that if you were over a certain age then that was it. If you didn’t have the cheekbones then nobody was going to be interested in watching you and I think we’ve really ploughed forward … I think it’s quite an exciting time.”

If anything that process seems to be speeding up now and the better roles are coming thick and fast. Haddington is currently shooting Enola Holmes, a film by Fleabag director Harry Bradbeer and based on Nancy Springer’s series of Young Adult novels. It stars Stranger Things actress Millie Bobby Brown as Sherlock’s younger sister in a cast which also includes Helen Bonham-Carter. She has also just finished work on the new film by Edinburgh-born Ben Sharrock, award-winning director of Basque film Pikadero, and there’s another film in the pipeline called Surge, directed by Aneil Karia and starring Ben Whishaw.

But even at the start of this decade Haddington was moving into edgier fare, with roles in shows like Luther and Ripper Street. She was also a very early member of the Phoebe Waller-Bridge fan club having starred alongside her in the Sky comedy The Café in 2011 and sees her as an example of what can be achieved if television executives over-ride their natural inclination to be risk-averse.

“I can remember looking at her and thinking, ‘My God, what an extraordinary individual’,” she says of the Fleabag actress. “And I think that giving opportunities to newcomers and to people who are coming in from a different angle and not just doing the same safe thing is very important. And it works”.

That said, one of the criticisms of Waller-Bridge has been that while she brought a brutal honesty to bear on the pressures facing young women she did it from a position of privilege. Privately educated and a graduate of London’s prestigious RADA, she’s descended from Baronets on both sides of her family. How, then, does Haddington think the diversity and opportunities box is being ticked in terms of class? It is, after all, a common complaint of (often Scottish) actors from working class backgrounds. James McAvoy is just one who has raised his voice on the issue.

It turns out it hasn’t escaped Haddington’s notice either.

“It seems to be less about your abilities and more about who you know. So much in our profession is about that and it’s still really quite elitist. If you look at who succeeds and where they came from, they don’t come from my background.”

And that may take more than a collective crossing of fingers to solve.

Guilt: BBC Scotland, Thursday, 10pm

Best trait?

I am good at paying compliments

Worst trait?

I am bad at receiving them

Last book read?

Martin Chuzzlewit by Charles Dickens

Last film watched?

The Last Black Man In San Francisco

Favourite song or pieces of music?

May You Never by John Martyn

Who’s in your fantasy theatre company and what play are you putting on?

Frances McDormand, Anne-Marie Duff, Viola Davis, Helen Mirren, Rory Kinnear, Paul Ritter, Douglas Hodge, Bryan Cranston. The one I am writing. Failing that, something Brechtian for sure.

Best advice received?

If you want to be an actor, don’t dream about being a celebrity.

Ideal dinner party guests?

I’m sorry, but it would have to be David Attenborough and a table for two!