Mon 08 Apr 2024

Scotland’s mandatory public sector AI register

It was recently announced that Scotland will become the first country in the UK to mandate that public sector bodies register any use or development of artificial intelligence (“AI”) on the Scottish AI Register.

The Register launched in March 2023 and is currently voluntary. There will be a phased approach to mandatory registration, starting with Scottish Government departments.

Scotland’s AI ecosystem 

As acknowledged by innovation minister, Richard Lochhead, Scotland has “world-renowned talent for research, innovation and ingenuity” and is “perfectly placed to capitalise on the rapid growth of AI”. In 2021, Scotland launched its AI Strategy with a vision to become a world leader in the development and use of AI. In achieving this vision, AI will contribute to a more prosperous and green country, with smarter services for its people. However, this must be done in a way that is inclusive, transparent, and ethical. Mandatory registration aims to better encourage public confidence in AI technologies. 

The Scottish AI Register

The Register is a public website with a record of AI applications, their purposes, and how they are used to serve the public. It aims to track the lifecycle of AI technologies – from conception, development, and use, through to retirement. The information on the Register includes descriptions on data used, how the AI works, risk management, and accountability. 

The Register allows for collaboration and constructive dialogue. The public can question and provide feedback on AI systems. Meanwhile, those on the Register gain access to potentially critical advice, support, and expertise – on a local and global scale. It is intended that this will help to ensure that AI technologies are economically and technically feasible, and make a positive impact. As highlighted by the Scottish Children’s Reporter Administration (“SCRA”) Chief Executive, a mandatory Register is important where sensitive information is regularly handled and issues of ethics, rights and privacy are at the forefront. Overall, it is hoped that the Register will be a powerful source of best practice when it is made mandatory.  

Use cases

AI technologies are already being developed and used within the public sector, with many voluntarily listed on the Register. For example, aims to use inclusively designed ethical AI solutions to improve access to public services for disabled people. ‘Mia’ is a breast cancer diagnostic tool being piloted in NHS Grampian and has detected 12% more cancers. In addition, the SCRA is exploring the use of AI to keep children safe from harm. 


Although the UK Government is not currently intending to go down the route of regulating AI in the same way as the European Union, this recent announcement affecting the Scottish public sector is an important development which has significant implications for the use of AI in Scotland.  

Notably, other countries and cities already have similar AI registers in place. Amsterdam and Helsinki have established AI registers, and the Dutch Government has an Algorithm Register, set to be mandatory by 2025 – all have similar aims to promote transparency and civic participation in the use of AI within the public sector. For Scotland, it is envisaged that a mandatory public sector AI Register will ultimately help drive forward Scotland’s AI Strategy and AI ecosystem. 

How can we help?

Please contact one of our specialists should you have any questions regarding the legal implications of developing, training or using AI systems.

This article was co-written by Tulsi Mount, Trainee Solicitor.

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