Artificial intelligence strategy: trustworthy, ethical and inclusive

Our artificial intelligence (AI) strategy sets out a vision for AI in Scotland, the principles that will guide us, and the actions we’ll take to develop and strengthen our AI ecosystem over the next five years.

The actions we will take

Scotland can approach the future with confidence. We have a long history of AI research and development, a strong academic base and a successful tech business sector that uses AI to improve people's lives and power our economy.

However, we know that to realise our vision and remain competitive on the global stage, we must continue to strengthen our AI ecosystem.

This means taking action in three areas – our three parallel tracks:

Track 1 – Establish collective leadership through the Scottish AI Alliance

Track 2 – Create the foundations for success

Track 3 – Build an AI Powerhouse

Each track has specific objectives and key actions to achieve them. These actions will form part of a detailed roadmap, setting out three timeframes starting from the launch of the Strategy:

Initiation – First 100 days

Commence delivery and engagement – Year 1

Sustain and grow – Year 2 and beyond

These actions are complemented by those of other strategic programmes and are part of the bigger picture. Scotland's Digital Strategy, published in March 2021, will establish the digital and data infrastructure foundations for our AI Ecosystem. It also commits us to incorporating green thinking into all our digital solutions and to taking action to establish Scotland as an attractive location for green data centres. Our AI Strategy builds on these actions, contributing to solving these complex challenges, as exemplified in our recent AI Challenge to Tackle the Climate Emergency[36].

In parallel, implementing the recommendations of Mark Logan's Scottish Technology Ecosystem Review will see the creation of an innovation ecosystem in which AI can thrive. This was approved in our 2020-2021 Programme for Government[37].

Because data powers AI, we recognise that our data infrastructure is crucial to Scotland's future. The Infrastructure Investment Plan[38] committed £110m to boost funding in this key area, helping to build the foundations of an AI ecosystem which will power our public services. Also, we know that AI only creates value when it's based on the right high-quality data. The creation of Research Data Scotland[39] is a major step forward in advancing ethical AI and securing access to data for the public good.

Unlocking AI's considerable potential will also help to realise wider ambitions for Scotland. For example, because our world-class research attracts global talent, AI is acknowledged to be a key driver of inward investment[40]. With significant investment in the development of AI from industry and research, we will develop a plan and support mechanisms to access research and development funding aligned to our vision.

Scottish AI Playbook


Scotland will become a leader in the development and use of trustworthy, ethical and inclusive AI



Track 1: Establish Collective Leadership - The Scottish AI Alliance

Provide the collective leadership required to mobilise the people and organisations in Scotland's AI ecosystem and beyond to realise our vision for AI

Track 2: Create the Foundations for Success

Build and strengthen the foundations for success - awareness of AI, a skilled and diverse workforce engaged and innovative organisations and investment

Track 3: Build AI Powerhouse

Build a globally recognised AI powerhouse that will be a place to collaborate, innovate, and supports the successful development and adoption of AI

We have a globally competitive, entrepreneurial, inclusive and sustainable economy

AI in FinTech

FinTech Scotland

The use of AI in finance technology (FinTech) across Scotland is helping people to manage their money. It generates insights and analysis that bring issues, options and opportunities into sharper focus and in doing so improve customer experiences and reduce risk in financial services.

AI combined with Open Banking is a powerful enabler and companies are using it to improve financial inclusion. Open Banking has created a regulated framework that allows a third party consented access to an individual's current account information and provide a wide range of services to help people maximise their income and better understand their spending behaviour. Crucially, it provides affordable lending to people who have previously been excluded from mainstream credit options.

AI in FinTech is generating the insights and intelligence needed to develop trusted new solutions and companies in Scotland are playing a part. In the lending market, DirectID is applying AI and Open Banking to determine if an individual can afford a loan and calculate the likelihood that they will default on the repayments. This helps the lender assess its potential risk and opens the door to new lending options for people with little or no credit history who may have resorted to higher interest loan providers in the past.

Understanding spending behaviour is also becoming easier through the use of AI. For example, Money Dashboard categorises transactional information and tells users what they're spending each month and how this compares to others in their peer group. encourages people to maximise their income by helping them understand the benefits and grants that are available. This application addresses the fact that many people don't claim the benefits they may be entitled to and instead resort to credit and debt to supplement their income.

To take one example, healthcare is the fastest-growing global market for AI and with our existing strengths and global trade links[41] Scotland is well placed to become a 'go to' location for the sector, creating new jobs and transforming health and social care delivery. We will accelerate AI development to prepare validated and regulated technologies for this market. A Scottish Life Science AI Investment Ecosystem, facilitated by the Scottish National Investment Bank[42], will support access to infrastructure, business capital and supply chains. Also, The Scottish Government's Health Industry Partnership will put in place the enabling policies and set up a Life Science AI Cluster Working Group to deliver an inception plan by autumn 2021.

AI also creates opportunities in diverse areas including secure by design for cyber resilience[43], planning[44] and the future of Scotland's islands[45] We will ensure that work to deliver the Strategy actively complements these and other initiatives.

We have a globally competitive, entrepreneurial, inclusive and sustainable economy

AI in High Performance Computing

Codeplay Software

Edinburgh-based Codeplay is a specialist developer of software solutions for AI and supercomputers. This expertise is integral to creating the high levels of computing performance required to process 'big data' for the AI used in leading-edge applications such as self-driving cars and the scientific modelling of vaccines.

Surprisingly, many of the technologies used for AI and supercomputers today can be traced back to the videogames industry where huge amounts of processing power are required to create sophisticated graphics for today's best-selling games. Codeplay has pioneered the use of these powerful graphics processors for other applications, for example in AI and science.

For example, Codeplay software is helping USA's National Laboratories to build the next generation of supercomputers called 'Exascale'. Computer chips from three different suppliers are being used to achieve this new milestone in performance and each of these chips is based on graphics technology from videogames and then supercharged to run complex scientific applications.

Codeplay is also developing software that enables car manufacturers to build self-driving vehicles that can monitor their surroundings, avoid hazards and make our roads safer. Building these systems requires the ability to convert high-performance graphics processors to specialist self-driving CPUs and deliver solutions that achieve optimal performance whilst being safe.

We value, enjoy, protect and enhance our environment

AI and Energy Management

U-LEARN – Integrated Environmental Solutions (IES)

Integrated Environmental Systems (IES) is a specialist in integrated performance-based analysis and home to the world's largest building analytics team. The company is leading a project to develop U-LEARN, a unique web-based command centre that helps facility and energy managers monitor, analyse and predict the performance of their buildings portfolio. IES was awarded funding from the Scottish Government's Can Do Innovation Challenge Fund as part of an AI challenge to tackle the climate emergency.

Using a combination of live measured building data, AI, predictive analytics and simulation of a building's thermal and physics properties, the U-LEARN command centre will respond to end users' actions and feedback to produce real-time smart alarms and customised reports. U-LEARN applies the company's decarbonisation platform capability to generate intelligent data insights for efficient building management, helping businesses save energy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions and operational costs.

U-LEARN is one of many climate change initiatives that are helping Scotland meet its net-zero target by 2045 and it provides a model which can be adopted by other countries.

Track 1: Establish collective leadership – The Scottish AI Alliance


We believe success can be best achieved through collective leadership and the involvement of the people and organisations in our AI ecosystem. We will realise our vision for AI by creating:

  • Inspirational leadership that provides clear direction to accelerate progress
  • An environment where ideas are shared to stimulate innovation across sectors
  • Opportunities for everyone to learn from and contribute to the growth of AI
  • Strong connections allowing Scotland to contribute to the global development of AI

This will be achieved under the leadership of the Scottish AI Alliance, an open-to-all stakeholder group with representation from across society. The group will provide a focus for dialogue, collaboration and, above all, action on all things AI in Scotland, allowing businesses, economists, trade unions and our UK and international partners to come together and help to shape our AI future. Above all, we'll adopt the 'Scottish Approach'[46] and create a vehicle for everyone to have their say and be heard – and this includes children. As this is a national strategy, Scottish Ministers will be accountable for its delivery, and report on its progress in an annual State of AI Report.

The Alliance will make sure that we work efficiently across the AI ecosystem to deliver the strategy, aligning our efforts with those of other key initiatives such as Scotland's Digital Strategy. If it needs a task force to get something done, the Alliance will take the necessary action. It will also be responsible for the continuous development of the Scottish AI Playbook.

The Alliance will welcome all people and organisations to contribute their voice and expertise, and it will facilitate partnership-building to pursue specific opportunities. We will put in place appropriate measures to ensure diversity throughout the Alliance, including its leadership. And we will specifically seek out meaningful participation from groups whose voices are essential but are not always heard, including children.

We will be outward-looking to the UK and the world, building on the Scottish Government's existing dialogue with UK partners, including the Office for AI and AI Council, and with international partners such as our response[47] to the consultation on the European Commission's White Paper on Artificial Intelligence: A European approach to excellence and trust[48].

Key actions

First 100 days

We will establish the Scottish AI Alliance including board members and start building an effective mechanism to ensure civil society's full participation. We will work with partners to ensure wider strategic alignment complementing the Digital Strategy and Scottish Technology Ecosystem Review (STER).

Inspirational leadership that provides clear direction to accelerate progress

An environment where ideas are shared to stimulate innovation across sectors

Opportunities for everyone to learn from and contribute to the growth of AI

Strong connections allowing Scotland to contribute to the global development of AI

Year 1

In the first 365 days, we will confirm our priorities and establish Task Forces and Communities of Practice to lead our work in these areas. We will identify the regulatory and financial levers Scotland has to realise the vision, such as funding and procurement and where we need to influence nationally and internationally. Other actions will include:

  • Develop horizon-scanning capability to identify high growth companies, opportunities and key international benchmarks
  • Initiate a communications programme to promote the Alliance
  • Establish a community engagement and participation strategy to encourage non-tech businesses and the people of Scotland to adopt and engage with AI
  • Publish a State of AI report to review progress at the end of Year 1 (and in subsequent years)

Year 2 and beyond

The Alliance will evolve. We will review our performance regularly and adapt to create sustainable growth and continued innovation.

The proposed structure of the Scottish AI Alliance

Through the Scottish AI Alliance, we will build partnerships to achieve the vision set out in this strategy. We propose that the Alliance consists of four Circles: Leadership, Delivery, Community and Support. These are explained below:

A graphic of the four Circles in the Scottish AI Alliance, summarising what each involves:
Leadership – Minister, Chair of the Alliance, Senior Leaders,
Delivery – Communication Activities, Project Groups, Engagement Programme,
Community – Focus Groups, Online Platforms, Feedback,
Support – Finance & Resources, Scottish Government, Data Lab

Leadership Circle

The Leadership Circle will oversee:

  • all work required to deliver the Strategy, to be taken forward by the Delivery Circle
  • the communication and engagement programme, managed by a partnership of the Delivery and Community Circles
  • the development of the Scottish AI Playbook, working in conjunction with the Delivery and Community Circles.

Members will comprise senior figures from Scotland's AI community and related industries, who will be recruited through an open call, with representation from the broader community. The Chair of the Alliance will be appointed by the Scottish Government. The Leadership Circle will report directly to Ministers, who will advise the Scottish Parliament on the delivery of the Strategy.

Delivery Circle

The Delivery Circle will:

  • take forward programmes of work to deliver the Strategy, ensuring it is aligned with other strategic initiatives
  • support the Leadership Circle to develop the Scottish AI Playbook
  • plan and implement a communications and engagement programme in partnership with the Community Circle

Key figures with an interest in contributing actively to achieve our vision, from Scotland's AI community and from related business sectors will be invited to become members of the Delivery Circle.

Community Circle

The Community Circle will:

  • in partnership with the Delivery Circle, implement a communications and engagement programme including spaces to discuss the delivery of the AI Strategy and wider issues relating to AI technologies
  • provide feedback on this work to the Leadership and Delivery Circles
  • support the Leadership and Delivery Circles to develop the AI Playbook

We will seek membership through an open process from all individuals and groups with an involvement or interest in AI.

Support Circle

The Support Circle will:

  • provide support functions, including administration, finance and resource management
  • manage internal and public communication channels, including the website and social media feeds

Members will include the Scottish Government and Data Lab staff.

Terms of Reference

Draft Terms of Reference for the Alliance will be published as part of our open call to join the Leadership Circle. This document is intended to stimulate dialogue on the subject and contribute towards a finalised version which will be published within the first 100 days of the Strategy.

Track 2: Create the foundations for success


We believe the long-term future of AI in Scotland can be assured if we act now to build strong foundations. This means reinforcing our existing AI ecosystem: developing a skilled and diverse workforce, supporting organisations to be innovative and providing the right investment. Partnership working can make this happen by creating the necessary skills, data infrastructure and access to funding, as well as influencing national and international policy and regulation to enable AI technologies to thrive in Scotland. At the same time, we must work to raise awareness of AI and tell the world about our success stories.

Key actions

First 100 days

  • Begin work on the Scottish Playbook for AI
  • In collaboration with Research Data Scotland, initiate a programme to unlock the value of data through trustworthy innovation for the benefit of everyone
  • Work with partners to align the AI Strategy with other national technology initiatives and programmes

Year 1

We will build strong foundations, create a sustainable infrastructure and promote Scotland as a global leader – a great place to work and invest in AI. This will include a national and international engagement plan targeting future talent, businesses and potential investors. In parallel, we will:

  • Develop a plan to better leverage investment, research and development funding
  • Encourage the public to develop their understanding of AI using open online resources
  • Determine the steps we will take to make sure everyone in Scotland benefits from AI and exercises their rights
  • Develop Framework proposals to unlock the value of data, which will be informed by public and stakeholder engagement
  • Develop a plan to influence global AI standards and regulations through international partnerships[49]
  • Expand international collaboration on AI and children

Year 2 and beyond

We know that to enhance our AI capability, we must continue to improve our skills and infrastructure. We will lead a skills plan to ensure everyone has access to AI learning opportunities in our education system and improve the way businesses use, develop and adopt AI. Related activity will:

  • Support upskilling and reskilling displaced workers and people vulnerable to exclusion
  • Specify data and wider digital infrastructure requirements
  • Scale the development of data platforms to meet the needs of the public sector, academic and third sector analysts (led by the Scottish Government and delivered in partnership)
  • Secure safe, proportionate and privacypreserving access to data for research and innovation in the public interest, including Open Data and Research Data Scotland
  • As part of the Digital Strategy, accelerate the use of common digital and data standards across the public sector
  • Implement the Framework for unlocking the value of data

Track 3: Build an AI Powerhouse


With solid foundations in place, we can now look to create momentum and accelerate growth and global influence. Scotland will become an acknowledged AI powerhouse, a country that sets standards in collaboration and innovation - one that leads the way in adopting AI technologies. We will achieve this by:

  • Creating a dynamic and accessible environment where innovative thinking thrives
  • Adopting AI technologies to make Scotland a greener, fairer and more prosperous country
  • Using the Scottish AI Playbook to guide the way we develop and adopt AI
  • Establishing a reputation for doing AI for the social good
  • Developing an industry where the public sector leads by example

Key actions

First 100 days

  • Refresh the AI and Data Technologies Capability Directory to drive engagement between AI consumers and AI creators (in collaboration with ScotlandIS and partners)
  • Expand on our AI CivTech Challenge on ethical and explainable AI in the public sector[50]

Year 1

  • Building on the success of our AI Climate Emergency Challenge[51], establish an AI for Good Programme to help solve some of the most significant challenges facing our society
  • Accelerate and scale the availability of knowledge and enablement services from the Data Lab and other partners to help businesses adopt AI
  • Develop the AI Playbook to address challenges and pursue opportunities for academia, industry, public and third sector to adopt AI-enabled solutions
  • Create opportunities for people, businesses and organisations to get hands-on experience of AI
  • Reach agreement on the development of a public sector AI Charter (including a mechanism for feedback from the public)
  • Conduct an audit of Scotland’s AI Ecosystem, across industry, academia and public sector identifying strengths and opportunities

Year 2 and beyond

  • Create a register of trusted algorithms used in the Scottish public sector, learning from best practice around the world
  • Improve the capacity of the public sector to adopt AI through innovative procurement, support of CivTech and technology pilots
  • Review and adapt the AI Playbook based on feedback and results
  • if appropriate, establish an advocacy and recourse service for the people of Scotland



Back to top