There is a bizarre new rule in Scotland’s Islands Bill that bars mapmakers from showing the island of Shetland in a box. That is a standard approach to allow a large map of Scotland by not having to show the expanse of water between Scotland and Shetland. That made Shetland feel . . . well . . . boxed and isolated. So now the legislature is ordering mapmakers how to make maps — a ridiculous overreach of legislative authority in my view.
The Shetland Islands are roughly 152 miles from the Scottish mainland. It is a common practice to put Shetland in a box as shown by this 1771 map.
The new law requires that the island is to be “displayed in a manner that accurately and proportionately represents their geographical location in relation to the rest of Scotland” in any documents published by Scottish public authorities.
The United Kingdom, as we discussed again today, has taken a head long plunge into speech regulations and crimes. This practice is based on the individual mapmakers view of the ideal portrayal of the land masses. That is a form of expression that is now being directly limited by government demand. It is akin to ordering journalists to refer to Shetland as “the nearby island of Shetland.”
The “mapping requirement” allows an exception for a showing of necessity but it is not clear what is required for such a showing and, if it is left up to the mapmaker, why this law is being passed. The bill would require maps showing mostly sea — limiting the ability to make larger or more inclusive depictions.