Local SNP MSP Tom Arthur has stressed the importance of acknowledging not only the huge opportunities presented by the development of artificial intelligence and data driven technologies, but also the challenges and concerns raised by this rapidly expanding sector.

Speaking in a debate on the subject, Mr Arthur noted that AI has the potential to greatly benefit the Scottish economy, improve productivity and efficiency and attract new businesses and highly paid jobs.

For instance, PricewaterhouseCoopers estimates that the benefit from these technologies could be worth over £16 billion in 2030 and would provide £2,000 of extra spending power per household annually.

However, there are concerns that AI and automation could lead to job losses as well as gains, which is why the Scottish Government is working to ensure the Scottish workforce is adaptable, flexible and ready to respond to the future of work.

AI also raises new ethical issues around data, highlighting the need for a strong ethical framework for the way these technologies are used.

Going forward, the Scottish Government will develop an AI strategy which will help maximise the potential economic and social benefits of AI and will send a strong signal to the world about Scotland’s ambition in technology. The strategy will work on the following themes to ensure that all areas of concern and opportunity are explored: ethics and governance; education and engagement; future of work; public services; R+D; data fabric and is set to be formally launched in September 2020.

The Data Lab, Scotland’s Innovation Centre for data and artificial intelligence (AI), has been appointed by the Scottish Government to lead on co-ordinating the strategy, which will drive the use of artificial intelligence to improve the wellbeing of Scotland’s people, as well as unlocking a potential £13 billion in additional economic output.

Commenting, Tom Arthur MSP said:

“By addressing the opportunities and challenges of AI and data technologies and underpinning their use with a strong ethical framework, we can ensure that they benefit the Scottish economy, improve productivity and efficiency, and attract new business and jobs.

 “This new AI strategy will give Scotland the opportunity to be an international leader in data technologies in a way that enhances the country’s reputation, safeguards citizens’ rights, secures access to fair work and brings new jobs and investment to Scotland.”

Digital Economy Minister Kate Forbes added:

“When developing Scotland’s AI strategy, we will broker an honest, meaningful dialogue between the people of Scotland and all relevant stakeholders about AI’s role in their lives and the concrete actions that will be taken to address specific issues—not just a set of well-meaning abstract principles. We will do that openly, transparently and in partnership, using the Scottish approach, as we did with the national performance framework.”


  • As set out in the latest Programme for Government, the Scottish Government is taking significant action to ensure technological change can address challenges and lead to economic opportunities.  
  • Over the next year, the Government will work with the public, industry, public bodies and organisations, academia and beyond to set out Scotland’s ambitions, principles and priority actions on AI and a route to securing public support as the precursor to realising economic, social and environmental value.
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