Best Practices

Cloud First Adoption to Drive World Class Digital Government in Scotland

Detailed analysis and insights of how Scotland's public sector is adopting the Cloud.

World Class Digital Government

A key observation and recommendation from an Audit Scotland report on the country’s progress building a world leading digital nation highlights the importance of Cloud computing adoption:

“The Scottish Government needs to do more to put the right infrastructure in place to support change. Currently it is not leading by example in the use of cloud technologies, a key part of its strategy.”

This is a particularly illustrative point of the challenges facing the Scottish Government, as their Digital Economy plan defines it’s adoption as one of the key accelerators towards achieving the goal of becoming a world leading digital nation:

“Mandate the use of common platforms and infrastructure, including cloud hosting, as appropriate across the Scottish Government.”

“Make better use of cloud-based solutions as a source of both cost reduction and service innovation, and move public sector data hosting to a cloud environment wherever this is appropriate in terms of security and efficiency.”

It is a technology central to their digital transformation goals. For example this Scottish Parliament document on NHS technology innovation describes:

“The adoption of Cloud technology and Agile delivery methodologies through the digital transformation at NES has proven that the fundamentals of the UK & Scottish Government digital strategies, when fully adopted, deliver real and lasting transformation of services.”


“By fully adopting the Cloud first approach for applications and systems to deliver redesigned services in support of the Health & Social Care Delivery plan, the data that underpins all aspects of improved care and quality can be made accessible to whomever needs it, whenever they need it from wherever they need it.”

Cloud First best practices – Building a Scottish CCOE: Cloud Centre of Excellence

As they detail in this blog the Scottish Government is now developing a best practice community for Cloud First adoption in Scotland. As the name suggests a requirement that all new IT procurement opts first for a Cloud service if possible. It was first pioneered by the USA Govt in 2010 and is today recommended as the default starting point for CIOs.

They have established a Cloud Centre of Excellence (CCoE), with aims of:

To help organisations across the Scottish public sector realise benefits associated with using cloud. Sharing best practice to support the delivery of cloud-based public services. Providing access to knowledge, key skills, cloud events, training, information and guidance.

This will provide thought leadership and guidance to Scottish Public Sector organisations as they plan, progress and manage their adoption of cloud services. They have identified the headline topics most in demand that they plan to cover through this group:

  • Cost management
  • SecDevOps & Automation
  • Security Architecture
  • Infrastructure-as-Code
  • Monitoring

They also polled attendees to determine where they are on their Cloud maturity journey, highlighting there is still a major wave of migrations required, and also that the major obstacle to overcome to achieve this is appropriate enhancement of staff skill levels.

As part of this they also identified the single most important factor in building a Cloud-centric public sector organization:

There was also widespread recognition that Non-ICT staff and Board-level stakeholders must be engaged to make it clear that cloud adoption was a business transformation, and not simply an IT transformation.

Cloud Framework

To enable nationwide adoption the Scottish Government recently launched their new national agreement for the provision of cloud services. It has a forecast value of £30 million, is a multi-supplier agreement and is open to all Scottish public sector organisations including the third sector.

As their blog describes the framework is intended to support and enable the overall digital strategy, with implementation building on their earlier 2014 Data Centre policy program.

The scope of the framework includes:

  • Public cloud (including access to hyper-scale public cloud)
  • Private cloud
  • Co-location
  • Hybrid cloud
  • Community cloud
  • Cloud transition services

Best Practices Adoption and Implementation

As recently announced they have now also published a best practices guide for public sector Cloud adoption.

The Benefits of Cloud information will help stakeholders understand the many benefits of using pubic cloud services. It gives a high-level overview of the different aspects and uses of cloud, with the accompanying Cloud Primer offering an introduction, allowing staff from different parts of the organisation to take part in discussions about cloud, and includes seven Cloud Principles to guide organisations in using cloud appropriately and securely.

Work has now shifted to large scale adoption, with major projects including NHS Scotland signing a £15m hosting deal with AWS and the Scottish Government doubling their AWS spending during the pandemic from £2.5m to £4.7m. As UKauthority reports the Scottish Government has set up a purpose built “landing zone” AWS environment for agencies to migrate to.

The Scottish Digital Office offers this guide for Local Government, highlighting pioneers such as Aberdeen City Council, who became the first local authority in Scotland to utilise the Microsoft Cloud Navigator Plan to progress their digital transformation in 2019. 

Their aim was to fundamentally change the way it delivers services and improving customer service and staff efficiency by using artificial intelligence and cloud technologies on Azure. Switching to Microsoft Azure aimed to save the council a substantial amount of money by moving data from their existing on-premise storage to the cloud.

The feature video shares an F5 interview with Neill Smith, Head of Infrastructure at the Agriculture and Rural Economy Directorate, which manages the payment of around $1 billion in subsidies to farmers each year, where they discuss their journey to adopt a “Multi-Cloud” approach.

Business Case for Cloud Adoption

In this video, Paul Christie, Head of IT Service for Registers of Scotland, describes their business case for adopting the Cloud.

The fundamental reason is to underpin their existing strategies which support their corporate plan. Strategies such as the sustainability strategy, the service acceleration strategy, the data strategy and generally all of the things they want to do around building a smart and digital workplace.

Cloud will enable and empower many of those strategies. It will allow the engineers and developers, and their product colleagues to focus on what the more value added elements of building these digital services for RoS colleagues and for RoS customers. And it will do so in a way that is much more secure and much more resilient than they could ever possibly do ourselves on premise.

Everything that they are doing on the Cloud is looking to reduce the overall cost of ownership of their digital products going forward through leveraging the economies of scale that Cloud offers and the density efficiencies that it offers.

In terms of this longer term strategy they’re looking to build or utilize Cloud in a way that is truly going to empower the organization to be very agile in the digital arena, and in a way that is much more cost effective for the organization.


Editor of On a mission to build a world leading Scottish digital nation.

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