A changing nation: how Scotland will thrive in a digital world

This strategy sets out the measures which will ensure that Scotland will fulfil its potential in a constantly evolving digital world.

Public Services Working For Us All

People and businesses expect services that are accessible and simple to use. They want them to be inclusive and designed around their needs, rather than the organisational structures or traditions of the organisations that provide them. The maturity of digital technologies such as the web, cloud computing, data analytics, artificial intelligence and the internet of things (IoT) now also provide unprecedented opportunities to reimagine how public services are delivered.

They can:

  • provide the right communication medium for the right type of support needed, without the need to be tied to a physical location or specific hours of support;
  • allow us to simplify transactions improving the user experience;
  • allow us to simplify and automate the processes that underpin services to improve responsiveness and reduce the opportunity for things to go wrong;
  • provide users with a clearer understanding on the progress of their request;
  • help us to understand and anticipate the needs of people and businesses;
  • allow us to tailor and target services towards those who need support the most;
  • help us to deliver services that are more proactive and preventative;
  • allow us to make the connections between unrelated services used in communities so responses are seamless and comprehensive.

Image of two people using sign language on a video callWhere we are now

In 2020 the Scottish Government commissioned consulting firm Capgemini Invent to produce the report as part of work to deliver a refreshed digital strategy for Scotland. Capgemini produces annual “Digital Maturity” reports for the EU, and assessed Scotland using the same methodology. The research shows that Scotland’s digital public services outperform both the EU27+ average, and also those of the United Kingdom Government (Table 1).[47] Our score for on-line security for example (use of https for secure connections between websites and users etc.) is 20% higher than the EU 27+ average. But we lag behind the best performing countries.

Table 1

Overall average score of the eGovernment Benchmark Assessment















These results reflect significant progress over the past few years. Councils across Scotland are increasingly moving services online to deliver a more responsive customer experience that offers self-service, provides up to date information and can be accessed on a 24-hour basis.

The coronavirus crisis has shone an intense spotlight on the importance of public services which are not only secure and resilient, but which are able to work across organisational boundaries, adapt and scale in response to changing demands. We were able to accelerate roll-out of the ‘NHS Near me’ video consultation platform from 300 consultations a week in March 2020 to 17,000 a week in July 2020 allowing patients and service users to attend appointments remotely. This has had a transformative impact on wellbeing with patients and carers able to strike a balance between managing complex health care requirements to attend appointments alongside work and family life.[48] Protect Scotland, a free, mobile phone app designed to help us protect each other and reduce the spread of coronavirus has been downloaded over 1.8 million times and represents a central element of Scotland’s response to the pandemic.

Check In Scotland was developed at pace to collect the contact details of people who visit hospitality businesses, such as pubs, bars, restaurants and cafes in in a safe and secure way, supporting contact tracing across Scotland. This service, which is a joint venture between Scottish Government, Public Health Scotland (PHS) and NHS National Services Scotland (NSS), has provided benefits on the speed, quality, accuracy and consistency of data being retrieved in the event of venue registers being required by local health boards.

In July 2020, and in response to coronavirus where Council offices were closed or operating to restricted opening hours, the Improvement Service successfully launched getyournec.scot as a new online channel for National Entitlement Card applications. Initially launched for over 60s to apply for concessionary bus travel, it was quickly followed by a new digital application process for Disabled Concessionary Travel and Young Scot applicants. By providing a contactless channel in a lockdown environment, it allows those eligible to apply online from the comfort of their own home and by offering a better end-user experience for those comfortable using technology. In less than six months of the site’s launch, half (17) of Scotland’s Councils have adopted the service, with more set to follow. The service is proving popular with the public; in some Councils up to 65% of cards being issued are as a result of an application having been made online through the site.

Through the Scottish Cities Alliance millions of pounds are also being invested to make Scotland’s cities smarter, using new technologies to accelerate and transform the delivery of city services. For example, Councils such as Glasgow City Council have introduced a network of intelligent street lighting as part of ongoing initiatives to improve digital infrastructure in our cities.

Where we want to be

We want to join the front rank of European countries in terms of the quality, availability and security of our digital public services. We need to transform the way government operates to align processes centred on the user experience and implement ‘digital thinking’ as well as digital technology across the public sector. We need to learn from those countries with the most advance standards. This won’t be easy, but we believe it is possible if we collaborate across the public sector, work as part of an ecosystem of talent across the economy, champion the re-design of services from the perspective of the user and earn the trust of the people we serve.

Scotland will put people at the heart of its approach and create and sustain an environment in which people are engaged and empowered to participate in designing the services they need and in holding service providers to account for their performance.

The starting point will be to ensure that our design methods are accessible and inclusive. We will therefore embed service users throughout the design process, not just as consultees, but as full and active participants in making sense of the challenges we face and making decisions on prototype services and models. We will bring those with lived experience into multi-disciplinary teams, including those with an understanding of what is possible from current and future digital technologies and operating practices to re-think, rather than just digitise services. We will provide the collaborative leadership required to challenge and work across organisational boundaries where these are not adding value to the people and businesses that use our services. This will be underpinned by a digital service culture and a commitment to common standards that promote interoperability.

Implementing a fundamental re-design of public services will require a data-driven approach to better understand needs and inform service design. This will ensure that relevant data is available at the right time within the underlying processes, and to monitor impact of these new services. Using data to understand trends can also enable services to become more targeted, proactive and preventative. Service design activities will therefore need to be resourced with appropriate skills and capability, and underpinned by technology that enables data to be shared, presented, analysed as appropriate.

As more public services go online, users need to be able to trust service providers with their data and interactions. This is especially the case for people who are reluctant to move to digital versions of familiar services. Strong security needs to be built into digital public services by design.

Building trust will be a vital component of the design process, and their participation will validate that our use of data can be trusted and regarded as ethical. Building such trust will be important:

  • for people to understand how their information is used and managed by the public sector, and (where appropriate) to have greater control for how it is used;
  • to process personal data in line with data protection principles;
  • to use a consistent ethical framework that can guide our use of data within the delivery of public services.

How we are going to get there:

Actions to ensure that public services work for us all:

  • Transform key public services: We will set out new and ambitious reform programmes for key areas of government, including health and social care, learning, justice, planning, schools and agriculture and the rural economy. Recognising that delivery processes, and the user experience, often cross traditional departmental boundaries much of this work will require the breaking down of those traditional barriers. These services and transformations in each priority area, a partnership of Scottish Government, Local Authorities, and other key stakeholders will work together to set out new, greener ways of working to help deliver a net zero society, that are centred around the people who use our services to improve their wellbeing, and ensure it is easier to deal online with all levels of government. Leadership Icon
  • Ensure public services are secure and resilient: We will improve the security capabilities and resilience of digital public services by protecting the digital systems that support Scotland’s infrastructure and essential services and ensuring a secure-by-design approach is adopted across the supply chain. secure by design icon

  • Embed the Scottish Approach to Service Design: Local Government and Scottish Government will build upon its growing service design community to increase adoption of the Scottish Approach to Service Design across the public sector. This means that we will define the problem before we design the solution, we design service journeys around people not our organisational structures, we seek citizen participation, use inclusive and accessible research, use a common set of core tools and methods and share and reuse our research. It will be underpinned by:
    • promoting and implementing the method within individual organisation;
    • capacity and skills in place to implement the approach across the public sector;
    • communities of practice in place to encourage collaboration;
    • periodically undertaking a service design maturity self-assessment and peer review;
    • a library of design standards and patterns that can be re-used and adopted across the public sector. Inclusive Theme Icon
  • ​​​​​​​Improve accessibility: We will make design decisions through the lenses of inclusion and offer clearly signposted alternative ways of accessing services for those who cannot, or do not want to, use digital routes. This will include the development of tools, processes and approaches that will allow identity to be established in a secure and sympathetic way for the digitally excluded. We will ensure that face-to-face services continue to be provided when they are necessary and enhanced, where possible, by technologies that support staff with local decision making and service delivery. Inclusive theme icon
  • Establish a joint Service Innovation Centre: We will develop the highly successful CivTech operation as the centre of public service innovation for national and local government. It will take public service problems and challenges and support entrepreneurs and small businesses to create, launch and implement digital solutions. The backing of the Scottish public sector as a whole will further strengthen Scotland’s reputation for innovation and our competitive position in the international GovTech market. Innovative Icon
  • Introduce a digital identity service for users: We will develop and establish a trusted and secure service for users to prove who they are, and that they are eligible for a service. Users will be able to store their information and choose to share it when applying to public services. This will improve a user's access to services by providing a safe and secure way to prove their identity, while reducing time and cost for the public sector. Additionally, we will develop an inclusive approach for all users to ensure that offline services are available for those who are unable to use a digital service. Inclusive Icon

Alignment to our National Performance Framework


We will;

  1. set out ambitious reform programmes for government;
  2. embed the Scottish Approach to Service Design across the public sector;
  3. ensure that all public services are designed through the lens of inclusion;
  4. develop the CivTech operation as the centre of public service innovation of national and local government;
  5. ensure that public services are secure and resilient;
  6. introduce a digital identity service for users.
NPF Alignment
NPF Health Icon

Health - We are healthy and active.

NPF Communities Icon

Communities - We live in communities that are inclusive, empowered, resilient and safe.

NPF Poverty Icon

Poverty - We tackle poverty by sharing opportunities, wealth and power more equally.

NPF Children and Young People Children & Young People - We grow up loved, safe and respected so that we realise our full potential.


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