Billy was awarded an honorary Doctor of Letters degree by the University of Glasgow on 11 July, 2001. This particularly bemused his wife, who noted that she had studied for six years to obtain her Ph.D., whereas Billy merely had to turn up and collect his. 2003 saw him presented with a BAFTA Lifetime Achievement award and a CBE in the Queen's Birthday Honours List.
In 1998 he was nominated for a SAG Award for the movie Mrs. Brown. The category was Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role.