Public sector use of artificial intelligence technology in Scotland must be ‘registered’, according to a government minister.

Scotland will become the first part of the UK to mandate that any use of the controversial tech by public bodies will have to placed on a publicly-available register.

Innovation minister Richard Lochhead said that the requirement will ensure that the public can have ‘confidence’ that AI is being used in a responsible way.

He said: “With our world-renowned talent for research, innovation and ingenuity, Scotland is perfectly placed to capitalise on the rapid growth of AI – but it must be used in a way that is open, ethical and transparent.

“From cancer diagnostics to helping our net zero journey, AI is a powerful and rapidly-developing tool the public sector can use to help drive efficiency and deliver solutions.

“Making it mandatory for public sector use of AI to be registered will not only give the public increased confidence that AI is being used openly and transparently, but will also act as an increasingly powerful source of best practice, helping ensure AI is used in ways which is both economically and technically viable and makes a positive impact across society.”

As such public bodies will have to log their AI projects on the Scottish AI Register, a publicly-accessible database which provides a range of information about the use of the technology in projects developed by those agencies.

The Register is currently voluntary, with public bodies encouraged to submit information.

Mandatory registration will begin with Scottish Government departments as part of a phased approach across the wider public sector.

AI is already being used across a range of public sector functions. Mia, an AI-powered breast cancer diagnostic tool, is currently being piloted in NHS Grampian.

Gerald Lip, clinical director, North East of Scotland Breast Screening Programme and consultant radiologist, NHS Grampian, said: “As AI starts moving to more widespread use, it is crucial to ensure efficient and safe use of this technology particularly in healthcare where public funding is used. Visibility of tools and usage allows sharing of best practice and, resource and learnings, preventing duplication of effort.”

Neil Hunter, Principal Reporter/Chief Executive of Scottish Children’s Reporter Administration said: “Scottish Children’s Reporter Administration felt that being part of the AI register was hugely important. As a public body working in a sensitive area of service delivery we wanted to be fully up front and open about our early exploratory work on potential future uses of technology that might have a positive impact on our skilled work.

“Our involvement in the register also unlocked a lot of support and advice from across Scottish Government and partners on issues of research and evidence, experience elsewhere from a national and global perspective – and most critically for us – access to expertise on issues of ethics, impact, rights and privacy. We are at a very early and exploratory stage – but registration has really helped us get access to the support and advice we need to ensure that any future journey is well informed and genuinely focussed on the public benefit.”

Jora Gill, CEO and co-founder of ConnectingYouNow, said: “ is leading organisational unified intelligence, with a vision to make it easier for citizens to access the public service they need. We started with those with sensory loss and those who are not digital experts. We therefore understand the critical importance of fostering transparency, ethics and trust in AI development and deployment. The AI Register aligns seamlessly with our core value of enabling responsible AI adoption.

“Being listed on the AI Register demonstrates our commitment to open collaboration and knowledge sharing to advance the safe and ethical use of AI for public good. We believe this level of transparency is essential for building public confidence and driving innovation that serves citizens’ best interests.

“We wholeheartedly support the Scottish Government’s vision for the AI Register and look forward to continued collaboration to unlock AI’s potential responsibly and transparently for public sector transformation.”

Access the Scottish AI Register here.