The 2021 Scottish budget – what does it mean for tech?

techUK unpacks the key announcements for the tech sector contained in the 2021 Scottish Budget.

The 2021-2022 Scottish Budget was unveiled at the end of January by Cabinet Secretary for Finance, Kate Forbes. The budget contains several important announcements for techUK members, including: 

  • Support for schools and families, with more than £200 million in total, focusing on the challenges of remote learning and the need for digital devices. techUK’s members have been able to help in this regard, working with Government to provide more than 500,000 devices to students and families in need.  
  • Support for small businesses, in the form of £21.8 million of funding to help small businesses across Scotland realise their digital ambitions. 
  • Investment in a digital economy, including £7 million to create a national network of ‘tech scalers’; a £500,000 Ecosystem Fund, topped up by private investment and used to invest in strategic assets to fund entrepreneurial ecosystems; and further support for university spinouts, improved early-stage investment markets, and increased involvement of the tech industry in supporting school age learners. 
  • Ambitious connectivity plans, with spending on connectivity infrastructure rising from £63.4 million to £102.7 million. This includes the Reaching 100% programme, which aims to ensure that all premises in Scotland can access superfast broadband as well as the Scottish 4G infill programme, the Scotland 5G Centre, and the Shared Rural Network. The budget also supports the Connecting Scotland programme, backed by a total investment of £45.6 million, provides families with a device, 24 months of unlimited data, and technical support to get online safely, with the aim of ensuring digital inclusion for all.  
  • Digital healthcare, ranging from the development of a digital platform for vaccination records, as well as significant investments in digital access to care for the public and increased digital capabilities. The ‘Near Me’ video consultation service is being scaled up, with more than 20,000 consultations per week and further funding of £2 million. 

The announcements in the Scottish budget follow an additional £10 million of funding for the DigitalBoost programme. The DigitalBoost programme provides grants to Scottish businesses to adopt and utilise digital technologies to help them mitigate against the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.  

The programme has been hugely popular, with, more than 2,400 businesses signing up. techUK has long advocated for grants and financial support for firms to increase their digital capabilities. This kind of funding provides invaluable support to businesses in hard economic times. The funding will also support the growth of innovation within the economy, as businesses are more likely to continue adopting productivity boosting technologies if they have done so before. By giving firms a leg up the Scottish Government is taking steps to drive tech-led growth in the wake of the pandemic. 

The Scottish Budget provides important support for Scotland’s growing tech sector with investments in the digital economy, small businesses digital capabilities, schools, health and connectivity.  

With a revision of Scotland’s 2017 Digital Strategy due later this year techUK looks forward to working with the Scottish Government as it develops its future plans for Scotland’s tech sector and the role it can play in helping the economy recover from the COVID-19 crisis. 

The 2021-2022 Scottish Budget can be read in full online here


Max Chen

Max Chen

Policy Manager, Digital Adoption, techUK

Max joined techUK in January 2020, supporting techUK’s general economic policy, digital adoption, and regional development work.

Prior to joining techUK, Max worked in the United States House of Representatives for a senior Democratic Member of Congress for a number of years, managing a broad policy portfolio but focusing primarily on healthcare, defence, and veterans policy.

Max holds an MSc in Public Policy from University College London and a B.A. in Political Science from the University of California, Berkeley.

Outside of work, Max enjoys riding motorbikes, photography, swimming, and travelling.


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