Charlotte Street Partners



Scotland and AI

Written by Li-Ann Chin, associate 
Edited by Kevin Pringle, partner
25 March 2021

Good morning,

Glasgow’s Turing Institute, in the west of Scotland, was considered an early pioneer of AI (artificial intelligence) development. The organisation was established in the 1980s by Donald Michie, a British researcher who during World War II worked alongside Alan Turing, a man widely considered to be the founding father of theoretical computer science and AI.
Earlier this week, the Scottish government launched its official AI strategy, which outlined Scotland’s aim to become a “global powerhouse for ethical AI”.
The phrase “ethical AI” is obviously the key here. We are now entering a time when adoption of AI is more prevalent than ever, and its ethical implication with regards to privacy and surveillance, inclusion and discrimination can no longer be ignored. The strategy commits to using AI for positive effect across all society and places a large emphasis on upskilling and retraining displaced workers and those vulnerable to exclusion – an undoubtedly welcome policy intervention.
And yet, there is little talk of any support that will be provided to Scottish-based AI start-ups under the newly unveiled strategy. There is mention of a Scottish AI Alliance, a group which will “provide a focus for dialogue, collaboration and, above all, action on all things AI in Scotland”, but details are woolly at best. The document hints tantalisingly at ambitious outcomes – strengthening Scotland’s AI ecosystem, for example – but falls short of providing concrete steps on how they will be achieved.
Data collated by Accenture’s UK Tech Talent Tracker reveals that recruitment for professionals with AI expertise experienced an increase of 96% in Edinburgh and 70% in Glasgow over the last six months. Demand for Quantum Computing is similarly up by 114% in Edinburgh.  
The figures above are indicative of the ambition that currently exists in Scotland; there is potential that is ripe for picking. Scotland and AI go back a long way, this we know. The challenge is carrying forward that legacy to the present-day, and to do so sooner rather than later. Technology waits for no person.


Former first minister Alex Salmond will take legal action against Leslie Evans, the permanent secretary to the Scottish government, who he claims “still refuses to accept real responsibility” for the botched handling of harassment claims against him. He has also called for a police inquiry into the leak of the Scottish government’s harassment inquiry.
After weeks of tensions over Covid-19 vaccine supplies, the UK and the European Union have confirmed in a joint statement that they will be working together to improve their relationship, create a win-win situation and expand vaccine supply for all. Britain has offered to boost production of AstraZeneca vaccine at the Halix plant in Netherlands, and Downing Street has not ruled out the UK “giving up” millions of doses it had previously laid claim to. (£)
The Scottish government has confirmed that NHS staff in Scotland will be offered a pay rise of at least four per cent – a move that will benefit 154,000 NHS Agenda for Change employees. The move is in recognition of their “service and dedication” throughout the pandemic, said health secretary Jeane Freeman.

Business and economy

Short-haul carrier Ryanair confirmed plans to fly at 80% capacity this summer as it believes vaccinations will end formal holiday travel restrictions. The airline will also return to Belfast City Airport, 11 years after the demise of Flybe, which was Northern Ireland’s main air connection to the outside world. (£)
The Labour Party has called on the UK government to publish details of larger loans made through its Covid-19 emergency schemes, to establish the full extent of borrowing taken out by Greensill Capital and channelled to Liberty Steel. Shadow chancellor Annaliese Dodds has also demanded a full investigation into former prime minister David Cameron and the role he played in lobbying for greater access to government funding on behalf of Greensill. (£)
Rescue efforts to move Ever Given, a 200,000 tonne container ship blocking the Suez Canal, is expected to resume today, following several failed refloating attempts yesterday evening. At present, traffic along the waterway in Egypt is still blocked by the ship.

Columns of note

COP26 – one of the most crucial global climate conferences – is set to take place in Glasgow eight months from now. With the summit being the first of its kind to take place post-Brexit and after the landmark Paris agreement has come into effect, the stakes are increasingly high for the UK. Simon Lewis, professor of global change science at University College London and University of Leeds, outlines a plan in The Guardian of how a successful Cop26, for Britain and the world, can be achieved.
A poll conducted by the Policy Institute at King’s College London and Ipsos MORI has produced astonishing results: one in five respondents believe their lives have improved since March 2020 and 54% say they will miss some aspects of Covid-19 restrictions. This from Alice Thomson in The Times is a thought-provoking read on the small minority who have, against all odds, grown happier and healthier during lockdown.

Cartoon source: Telegraph


What happened yesterday?

Equities in London managed a positive finish on Wednesday, as investors digested the latest UK inflation and business activity data. Oil jumped as a result of a blocked Suez Canal.
The FTSE 100 rallied by 0.2% at 6,712.89, while the FTSE 250 ended the day 0.33% firmer at 21,402.54.
Sterling, on the other hand, experienced a weaker performance, slipping 0.23% against the dollar and 0.03% on the euro to trade at $1.3720 and €1.1603. respectively.
Across the Atlantic, the S&P 500 ended in the red by 0.55% at 3,889.14 and tech-heavy Nasdaq fell by 1.68%, ending at 12,798.88.

In company news:

John Lewis has confirmed it will not reopen eight of its 42 department stores after the current lockdown ends in the UK, putting more than 1,400 jobs at risk.

Shares in software and gaming company Gamesys soared after it announced a possible merger with US casino Bally’s Corp.

Fashion group H&M received a wave of criticism from Chinese social media after a statement on its website from last year was found to confirm it had stopped sourcing cotton from Xinjiang.

What’s happening today?


Allied Minds, Ascential, BBGI, Biome Tech, Ebiquity, Faron Pharma, Funding Circle, International Public Partnerships, Lamprell, Learning Technologies Group, Regional Reit, Robinson, S4 Cap., Safestyle UK, Secure Trust, SIG, Surgical Innovations, Tandem Group, Venture Life

Mj Hudson Grp


Banco Santander, Micro Focus, Sk Telecom Ads, SSP Group, Sydbank Ord, TUI AG


Ab Ignotis. S, Emmerson, Tavistock

Int. economic announcements

(09:00) M3 Money Supply (EU), (12:30) Continuing Claims (US), (12:30) Initial Jobless Claims (US)

Source: Financial Times

did you know

A PwC report estimates that AI will contribute $15.7 trillion to the global economy by 2030. The greatest economic gains will be in China (26% boost to GDP in 2030) and North America (14.5% boost), accounting for almost 70% of the global economic impact.

Parliamentary highlights

House of Commons

Oral questions

Cabinet Office (including Topical Questions)

Business Statements

Business Questions to the Leader of the House – Mr Jacob Rees-Mogg

House of Lords 


Baroness Blake of Leeds

Oral questions



Counter-Terrorism and Sentencing Bill


On a motion pursuant to section 99 of the Coronavirus act 2020

Orders and regulations


Scottish Parliament 

The Scottish parliament is now in recess for the election campaign.

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