Artificial intelligence: letter to UK Government

Letter from Innovation Minister calling for a four nations summit to discuss risks and benefits of artificial intelligence.

To: Secretary of State for Science, Innovation and Technology, Rt Hon Chloe Smith MP
From: Minister for Small Business, Innovation and Trade, Richard Lochhead MSP

I write to you in follow up to my letter of 13 April 2023 to Michelle Donelan, and following a very interesting and thought provoking Scottish Parliamentary debate on the topic of Trustworthy, Ethical and Inclusive Artificial Intelligence: Seizing opportunities for Scotland’s people and businesses, which took place on 1 June 2023.

The debate itself covered a wide range of areas of opportunity and of course of concern from MSPs across the chamber. Following the discussion, I intend to update and refresh Scotland’s AI Strategy to reflect the ever changing environment in which we are working. My main take away from the debate was that, regardless of which constituency my colleagues represented, or from which side of the political spectrum they were placed, their main concern and focus was that Scotland needs to ensure that AI is delivered in a way which is both supportive of innovation and prosperity, but which is also fair and open to the people of Scotland. 

We are, I believe, at a pivotal point as a nation, where we have the opportunity to ensure that the people of the United Kingdom can have faith that we are all working together to deliver an AI infrastructure which will protect them from any potential risk, whilst also ensuring we can make the most of the benefits. It is with this in mind that I would like to propose a Four Nations AI Meeting, in order to ensure that all parts of the UK are represented as the regulation and deployment of AI continues.

I also believe there would be significant benefit in our Four Nations being able to meet and discuss their respective positions in advance of the proposed global AI summit put forward by the Prime Minister on Thursday 8 June. If the United Kingdom is to maintain its position at the forefront of technology development and innovation, we must also offer a joined up and cohesive platform for the future and I believe that Scotland has a significant contribution to make in this respect. For example, the work of The University of Edinburgh, who contribute significantly to the on-going delivery of Scotland’s AI Strategy, and are widely regarded as leading the world in the technical and ethical development of AI. I know that my Welsh and Northern Irish counterparts are also very keen to have the opportunity to contribute.

If you are content with this proposal I would be very happy to welcome you and our Welsh and Northern Irish counterparts to Edinburgh, as host of the meeting. I am also more than happy to travel to accommodate hosting elsewhere should that be more suitable.

Thank you very much for considering this proposal and I look forward to having the opportunity to discuss AI further with you and our Four Nations colleagues.

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