Scotland: A Blockchain-powered Innovation Nation


Adopting the Blockchain will achieve Scotland’s vision of a fully Digital Nation and usher in an unprecedented era of economic growth.

In this video Alex Tapscott describes the emergence of the blockchain as the dawn of the second digital age, and also highlights the global leadership role Canada is playing in the industry. Our ambition is that Scotland too can also be such a worldwide leader, leveraging our unparalleled history of invention that has seen us pioneer a multitude of innovations that have underpinned the modern world, to repeat that success for the new Digital Economy.

Foundations for a Digital Innovation Economy

The Scotsman asked what our country can do to attract more inward investment. The answer is executing the action plan needed to achieve the Scottish Government’s vision and goal of becoming one of the world’s leading digital nations by 2020, and the key to that is the Blockchain.

For a sense of the massive scale this represents, an example of just one tiny drop in this ocean of opportunity is a single startup venture raising $104 million!

This is a venture to set up a regulated cryptocurrency bank, and they are also an example of the ‘Zug Crypto Valley‘ effect, a purposely created initiative to establish the region as a specialist in the field. CryptoBriefing describes the background story as to how it came about, and in this BusinessInsider article they write about the natural alliance of a banking-centric, wealthy hot spot like Zug with the cryptocurrency industry.

With Scotland also having a world class banking industry and a thriving tech sector, we have some of the ingredients to replicate our own Crypto Valley and enjoy the same economic boost, but we are lacking this legislative vision so we’re falling behind. Like every market opportunity it’s a window that will soon close, we have to act now or be left behind.

There is great opportunity to stand on the shoulders of giants to do so. The CryptoValley phenomenon was pioneered by founded by Johann Gevers, a visionary thought leader and entrepreneur, and in this document he openly shares the original proposal and in this presentation defines the context as the Age of Cryptofinance.

21st century legislation for the Digital Economy

The foundation critical to enabling the flourishing of this new digital economy is the legislation that defines it.

Referring to the emerging Blockchain industry and the opportunity for Canada Digital Economy guru Don Tapscott describes in his Linkedin blog:

Whoever becomes the global hub of innovation in this technology will enjoy enormous prosperity. Competition is fierce.

and that a lack of regulatory clarity and consistency is impeding entrepreneurs, driving them to other regions such as Singapore and Switzerland who are catering for the trends to encourage innovation. He identifies six key actions including regulatory governance that would position Canada as a global tech leader and Scotland can do the same, for the same reasons. IBM urged the USA government to take similar actions.

For example the French parliament recently accepted a proposal to become a hub for ‘ICOs’ and Malta is setting themselves up as a “Blockchain Island”, passing three laws towards this goal. California passed a bill defining blockchain and crypto terms, Vermont a law that defines a new type of commercial entity, a blockchain-based limited liability company, and Illinois won praise for their regulatory framework for cryptocurrency.

In our PublicTechnology article about the world renowned digital nation leadership of Estonia, again legislation is a key feature. They have enacted into a law a number of critical foundations that made their digital nation possible.

This EU Observer article headlines the key sentiment: “You can’t use 18th century law for a digital world”, and describes the ‘tell me once’ principle that is also enacted in law. In short it legally forces government agencies to be efficient, legislating that they are not allowed to continually reinvent the wheel, recreating data capture forms for citizens to repeatedly input their personal information over and over again, when it has already been captured elsewhere.

Again the opportunity is to stand upon the shoulders of giants. Scotland has the opportunity to learn and pick from the best of each of these governance models and apply them to underpin our own digital economy.

This offers multiple accelerating economic benefits for Scotland – Driving cost saving efficiencies across the whole public sector while simultaneously enabling many new, global scale tech ventures that grows massive prosperity for the nation.

Digital Democracy via the Scottish Common Blockchain

The Scottish Government Digital Economy action plan describes a goal of:

“Trial electronic voting solutions to increase democratic participation.”

The potential economic benefit for Scotland is even greater again when you consider the fact that voting is just one of numerous applications that the Blockchain can be used to improve. Currency trading like Bitcoin is another and other use cases include land registries, welfare payments, taxes, law enforcement and many more, such that it has the potential to save the UK Government over £ 8 BILLION.

Moreover addressing these scenarios locally sets up for a wealth of international growth opportunities too, for example the USA Government is offering $800k startup support to address one particular requirement for ‘Preventing Forgery & Counterfeiting of Certificates and Licenses’. Solutions developed for one government will be applicable to them all, and so presents a highly scalable way of leveraging government spending to fast-track the next tech ‘unicorns’. The Thai Government is investigating similar applications for example.

In Scotland Wallet.services working with CivTech is an example of exactly this, and the Napier Blockpass ID Lab where academic and commercial research collaboration is defining how to integrate the essential companion technology for secure Identity authentication.

So we can think of deploying this technology in a form such that it operates as a public utility, like power and water. As Business for Scotland writes, this can be described as a ‘Common Blockchain Platform’, this public utility that enables everything from secure digital voting through our own digital currencies and these many public sector benefits.

The Scottish Common Blockchain would also enable secure online voting and encourage democratic participation amongst the young. Just as postal voting helps old folks vote, secure instant mobile voting will encourage younger generations to have their voice heard. If young people aged 16-25 voted as often as those over 50 then everything would change.

In an earlier article Business for Scotland interviews @YesDayScotland, one of the very first champions of Blockchain voting for Scotland, on what the capability would mean for the country.

So the opportunity for Scotland is simply one of implementation; the technological leaps have been made and the best practice blueprints documented and shared. We have talked the talk of becoming a world leading digital nation, now we need to walk the walk.

Luckily Scotland is blessed with the world-class expertise required to design such a platform.

Neil McEvoy
Founder of Digital Scotland. Veteran entrepreneur with 20+ years of pioneering Cloud computing innovations and best practices.

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