Shetland Unboxed

Wikimedia Commons

I hadn’t realized that Tavish Scott’s amendment preventing Scottish maps from displaying Shetland in an inset map actually passed. Section 17 of the Scottish Parliament’s Islands (Scotland) Act 2018 requires maps of Scotland produced by Scottish public institutions to display Shetland “in a manner that accurately and proportionately represents their geographical location in relation to the rest of Scotland.” The Act passed the Scottish Parliament last May and received Royal Assent in July. Now that the provision in question has come into force, the media, which always likes a weird map story, is seized of the issue all over again: there were news stories last week from BBC News, CBC Radio’s As It Happens, and NPR.

Basically, Shetlanders are delighted and cartographers are horrified: maps of Scotland will perforce be less detailed to accomodate all the empty ocean. In practice I suspect little will change: a loophole in paragraph 17(2)(b) enables a public authority to sidestep the requirement if they can justify it. I imagine that justification will be coming up a lot in maps that people actually use, leaving only illustrative and symbolic maps affected by the law. And, of course, private mapmakers and mapmakers not under the purview of the Scottish government (which I imagine includes the Ordnance Survey) will not be affected by this law.

Meanwhile, Maps Mania’s Keir Clarke gives us Unboxing the Shetlands, a tool to place mainland Scotland in an inset map instead.

Previously: In Praise of Inset Maps; Bruce Gittings on the Shetland Controversy; Don’t Put Shetland in a Box.

Author: Jonathan Crowe

I blog about maps at The Map Room, review books for AE: The Canadian Science Fiction Review, and edit a fanzine called Ecdysis.