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Scottish government advances payments programme

Platform is intended to support outbound and inbound payments and could integrate Gov.UK Pay in Scotland

The Scottish government is pressing ahead with the development of its single payments platform, where Gov.UK Pay could be one of the components.

The programme is not using the existing payment platform developed by the UK Government Digital Service (GDS), which launched in 2015, because it only carries out inbound payments at the moment.

According to a government spokesperson, the Scottish payments programme is being designed to consider developing a platform that could support both outbound and inbound payments.

There is a possibility, however, that Gov.UK Pay could be an element of the new solution, a spokesperson for the government said. “We are working with the UK GDS to evaluate it, alongside a number of other options, as a potential solution for [the inbound] element of a payments platform in Scotland,” the spokesperson added.

When questioned over whether the project could be the start of a wave of core technology frameworks that are being developed independently from the UK government, the Scottish government stated that it is working closely with the GDS across all aspects of its digital transformation agenda.

“We currently operate a number of systems that carry out our payments processes. The feasibility work we are undertaking is considering all of these systems and processes to ensure we are fit for the future,” the spokesperson said.

In September 2018, the Scottish government set up a team to analyse how it makes and receives payments. According to Hugh Wallace, transformation lead at the Scottish government, this is part of a wider programme of public service reform aimed at better equipping Scotland “to deal with changing circumstances”.

“We don’t know what the future holds, but there are lots of things we can do to make sure we’re able to adapt to it when it comes,” Wallace said in a blog post.

“Payments is just one aspect of that. If you use mobile banking on your phone or laptop, you’re probably very comfortable with paying bills and sending money to people with just a few taps or clicks – simple, intuitive, user friendly.

“But at government level, payments can get very complicated. We don’t just have to handle payments from one bank account to another, we also have to do a great deal of detailed accounting, reconciling and budget-aligning. It’s not trivial.”

Wallace pointed out that over the years, various government areas that take payments have set up their own systems, which don’t share common standards and are not ready to handle future demands.

So far, research and preparation for what is expected to be “a substantial piece of work involving lots of different parts of government” is being carried out. A business case to outline options for the future payments service is also being developed. 

A proof of concept is being developed in partnership with financial services technology specialist Scott Logic.

“We’ll show our work to users and see what they do with it and what they say about it. We use that feedback to develop it further and the cycle repeats,” Wallace said.

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