About state aid

State aid is a European Commission (EC) term which refers to forms of public assistance given on a discretionary basis which have the potential to distort competition and affect trade between Member States of the European Union.

The state aid rules are set by the EC and comprise various articles of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU), as well as regulations, frameworks and guidelines, which set out what aid can be given and under which circumstances.

The EC governs Member States' compliance with these rules and many aid measures must be notified to the EC for approval.

Find more information on state aid on the EC website.

About this guidance

This guidance is designed to help public sector bodies:

  • determine whether the state aid rules affect their work
  • view examples of state aid
  • see what approved schemes exist to enable state aid to be awarded in compliance with EC regulations
  • answer common questions
  • find the relevant contact information for specific enquiries

State aid and the UK’s exit from the European Union

On 31 December 2020 the EU/UK Transitional Period will end, meaning that from 1 January 2021, in the UK existing EU rules on State aid will no longer be followed.  The UK Government announced on 9 September 2020 that from 1 January 2021 they will revert to World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules for subsidy control.  As soon as more detail is confirmed, we will work with stakeholders to ensure there is a broad understanding of the new rules, as appropriate.  This website will also be updated to reflect the new rules.


We seek to ensure that the information published in this guidance is up-to-date and accurate. However, the information in this guidance does not constitute legal or professional advice and we cannot accept any liability for actions arising from its use. The Scottish Government cannot be held responsible for the contents of any pages referenced by an external link.

The State Aid Team provide advice to public sector bodies and not to individual members of the public, applicants or beneficiaries of aid.

It should be noted that state aid is a matter where policy is currently the responsibility of the European Union. Furthermore, the European Court of Justice holds sole competence over the presence of state aid or otherwise.

If you think that a measure you intend to implement, or aid that you intend to give, is state aid and have any doubts as to whether or not it is lawful aid, contact the State Aid Team.

First published: 16 Sep 2020 Last updated: 15 Oct 2020 -