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Scotland’s AI Strategy Outlines Ambitious Plans to Become ‘AI Powerhouse’

Ross Kelly

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Scotland's AI Strategy

The Scottish Government has officially unveiled its AI Strategy, outlining how the country can unlock the social and economic benefits of artificial intelligence.

Launched today at an online event, Scotland’s AI Strategy explores how artificial intelligence can be used to create positive impact and details plans to establish Scotland as a global leader in ethical and inclusive AI.

Revealing the strategy this morning, Finance Secretary Kate Forbes said its fundamental aim is to ensure that Scotland “maximises the potential social and economic benefits of AI” while showcasing Scotland as an open, innovative global player in artificial intelligence.

Speaking today, Forbes also announced the launch of a new funding programme aimed at supporting AI and data-driven innovation in Scotland.

This fund, the details of which are expected to be unveiled in Parliament imminently, will focus on bolstering financial support for the AI ecosystem in Scotland.

More than 18-months in the making, the strategy is the result of extensive cross-sector collaboration and consultation, and includes commitments to:

  • Influence global AI standards and regulations
  • Expand international collaboration on AI and children
  • Provide opportunities for people to get hands-on experience of AI
  • Ensure everyone has access to AI learning opportunities
  • Support upskilling and reskilling of displaced workers and people vulnerable to exclusion

Positive Impact

The strategy highlights some of the societal challenges that AI raises, particularly around trust, inclusion and the impact of algorithms on children and young people.

The ethical implications of artificial intelligence have been a recurring talking point in recent years, with concerns raised over the potentially intrusive nature of automated systems as the discriminatory impact of algorithms on vulnerable or minority demographics.

These ethical considerations feature heavily in Scotland’s AI Strategy, and it sets out key recommendations and actions that can be taken to prevent negative impacts on citizens.

“We recognise that AI brings with it serious challenges,” the report says. “For AI to be truly inclusive and benefit everyone, we need to secure people’s trust in the technology and be clear on its role in our society.”

“We need to address the real risks and concerns of bias arising from inadequate data or design or a lack of transparency of decision-making,” it adds.

The Scottish AI Alliance

One of the strategy’s three main objectives focuses on the establishment of the Scottish AI Alliance, a cross-sector group created specifically to drive the delivery and implementation of the strategy’s objectives.

“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,” the strategy states.

Gillian Docherty, Chief Executive of The Data Lab has been appointed as inaugural chair of the group, which she said will put “people at the heart” of efforts to position Scotland as a global leader in AI Development.

“It is a privilege to chair the Scottish AI Alliance and play my part in the delivery of the strategy, ensuring voices from across the country are heard,” she said.

“Through the collective leadership of the Alliance, we hope to tap into Scotland’s AI eco-system to encourage collaboration and innovation across sectors, to ultimately contribute to our economic, social and environmental outcomes,” Docherty added.

Long-term objectives of the Scottish AI Alliance will include developing ‘horizon scanning’ capabilities to identify high-growth potential companies operating in the AI ecosystem and establishing a new community engagement strategy which encourages non-tech businesses and the public to engage with – and adopt – AI.

Additional details from this section of the strategy can be found here.

Creating the ‘Foundations for Success’

Cultivating a more mature AI ecosystem in Scotland is another key focus of the strategy along with “reinforcing” the existing players and stakeholders.

To achieve this, the strategy recommends a strong emphasis on developing a more skilled and diverse workforce.

Long-term, this could see increased efforts to re-skill and up-skill “displaced workers” or people “left vulnerable to exclusion”.


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Similarly, the strategy outlines plans to “better leverage investment, research and development funding” in the AI ecosystem while ramping up efforts to raise global awareness.

An immediate focus will be to begin work on creating a Scottish Playbook for AI. This, the strategy says, will take the form of a publicly available, practical guide detailing Scotland’s vision for AI as well as the guiding principles behind the strategy itself.

Additional details from this section of the strategy can be found here.

Scotland as an ‘AI Powerhouse’

Developing a reputation as an AI powerhouse could be viewed as the ultimate goal of Scotland’s AI Strategy – the final outcome of dedicated focus, investment and the detailed cultivation of the Scottish AI ecosystem.

“Scotland will become an acknowledged AI powerhouse,” the strategy reads, but to achieve this will be required to create a “dynamic and accessible environment where innovative thinking thrives”.

Other measures required to establish Scotland as an AI powerhouse include:

  • “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”

Objectives outlined by the strategy also include the expansion of the AI CivTech Challenge on ethical and explainable AI in the public sector, as well as the creation of a register of trust algorithms used in the Scottish public sector.

The strategy also recommends creating additional opportunities for people, businesses and organisations to get “hands-on” experience of artificial intelligence in order to boost understanding, awareness and, ultimately, adoption.

Additional details from this section of the strategy can be found here.

Ross Kelly

Staff Writer

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