Which Scottish Government ‘directorates’ artificial intelligence, in whatever technical form, is used to support the development of policy: FOI release

Information request and response under the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002.

Information requested

  1. Can you list in which Scottish Government ‘directorates’ artificial intelligence, in whatever technical form, is used to support the development of policy? If this is too complex because of the number of directorates, would it be possible to list under which cabinet sectary and ministerial portfolio artificial intelligence is used to support the development of policy? This answer should exclude the NHS and AI use there.
  2. What kind of AI applications are currently used in the Scottish Government’s directorates? This answer should exclude the NHS and AI use there.
  3. Is there Scottish Government’s guidance on how its employees are to use (or not to use) AI applications, such as Chat GBT, in order to support their work? What does this guidance state?
  4. Has the Scottish Government itself put a ‘challenge’ to CivTech Scotland and has it developed any resulting engagement with a private sector company in ways that led to an AI application of use to the Scottish Government?


Question 1

Currently the AI use in the Scottish Government is mainly focused on the delivery of internal or external functions and the analysis of data, rather than policy development.

However there are two business areas which have identified AI being as part of processes which support policy development. Those are –

Health Workforce Directorate

Within the National Workforce Strategy for Health and Social Care (2022) we committed to developing a remote and rural workforce recruitment strategy by the end of 2024. Initial work has started on the strategy including a literature review, background research and meeting with remote and rural boards. As part of this initial background work, we wanted to ascertain if our research had missed any core areas that needed to be explored further. To do this we utilised the ChatBot service, which provided useful insight into core areas relating to remote and rural recruitment and correlated with our initial findings.

Finance Management Directorate

Limited testing of the capability of natural language AI chat systems to support desk research associated with organisational change activities.

The Register of AI, referenced in more detail at question three of your ask, will make this information more openly available once it is fully embedded in public sector use.

Question 2

In addition to the use of AI to support policy development described above, the Scottish Government is starting to use AI to either support the completion of manual tasks, for example

  • Marine Scotland – fish scale identification
  • Transport Scotland – road ice temperatures modelling

or to assist with checking the accuracy or appropriateness of data held in different systems, for example

  • Finance Management Directorate – to extract invoice information
  • Scottish Procurement and Property Directorate – to validate supplier details prior to progressing with activity.

These applications use different types of AI techniques including –

  • Supervised machine learning models
  • Natural Language Processing algorithms
  • ChatBots Bayesian estimation
  • Species distribution models

Question 3

Scotland’s AI Strategy, published in 2021, set out a vision for Scotland to become a leader in the development and use of trustworthy, ethical and inclusive AI.

Delivery of the strategy is the responsibility of the Scottish AI Alliance is a collaboration between the Scottish Government and the Data Lab. At the heart of the Alliance’s functions is supporting and encouraging ethical practices of AI through design, education, inclusion and accountability. These principles extend across all use of AI and are demonstrated in the Scottish AI Playbook, which endeavours to provide an open and practical guide to how we do AI in Scotland. It offers a one-stop source of information and shared best practice which everyone in the Scottish AI community can use and contribute to.

The Scottish Government is committed to working within the principles laid out in the strategy and developing and exemplifying best practice in the use of AI. To this end, we have recently launched a Register of AI systems currently in use or development within the Scottish Public Sector. The Register, which is still being developed, is designed to ensure transparency on the development and use of AI in the public sector and give the public the chance to ask questions and challenge its use.

With regards to Generative AI specifically, including tools such as ChatGPT, the Scottish Government currently follows the UK civil service wide draft AI guidance. This is a rapidly developing area which we are keeping this under review, and will consider issuing Scottish Government specific guidance if it becomes necessary I have attached the guidance for your information.

Question 4

Yes. The Scottish Government working alongside NHS colleagues ran a CivTech challenge on using AI to improve inclusive access to public services, starting with disabled people. The prototype developed during the accelerator stage was presented at CivTech Demo Day in February 2023, and a Pre- Commercial Agreement has been concluded with Insights Driven to continue development and go live later in 2023. You will be able to read more about this use case in the AI Register, referenced in question 3 above.

Please note that the Public Contracts Scotland (PCS) web site provides information on all of our current contracts (initial contracts, pre-commercial agreements and commercial contracts (post CivTech)).

It is our intention to record all Scottish public sector development and use of AI on the Register going forward.

About FOI

The Scottish Government is committed to publishing all information released in response to Freedom of Information requests. View all FOI responses at http://www.gov.scot/foi-responses.

Draft Guidance to Civil Servants on Generative AI


Please quote the FOI reference
Central Enquiry Unit
Email: ceu@gov.scot
Phone: 0300 244 4000

The Scottish Government
St Andrews House
Regent Road

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