Honey I Shrunk the Country!

Here’s a teaser. Imagine a helicopter takes off from the most northerly point in the UK and flies in a straight line to the most southerly point. Exactly half way through this flight it stops to refuel. What country is it in? It’s still in Scotland.

It took off from Muckle Flugga on the Shetland island of Unst, headed for Land’s End, and stopped half way, near Lockerbie. Surprising? Now you might say that this is a bit of a cheat, to include such far flung islands. But their very remoteness is a significant factor in Scotland’s natural assets. Their position affects Scotland’s oil and gas resources and fishing grounds, and determines their strategic significance to Europe’s northern defences. But it’s not just Scotland’s geographic reach which is surprising. We have also been trained to underestimate Scotland’s size by the media’s lazy approach to graphics. The map of the UK with Shetland in a little box somewhere off Aberdeen became a recognised cliché. (The T-shirts available in Shetland with those islands in centre position and the UK mainland in a little box to the right of Yell are a splendid response.) But the BBC constantly exposes us to a more blatant misrepresentation. And the insidious nature of this visual deception is totally inappropriate in the lead-up to the independence referendum.

Maps have a power to shape our perceptions. And the maps which we see more than any other are the weather maps on TV. Take a look at those on the BBC.

1) BBC projection with no scale

The virtual camera floats above the north of France, looking down diagonally at the UK. The south of England looms large, while Scotland diminishes in the distance. Surely we can interpret that, you might think. That was the response of the BBC when the maps were first introduced in May 2005. There were over 4000 complaints. Responding in the Scotsman a BBC spokesperson explained why we were all misguided in our objections.  That’s how it would really look from space. But I’ve done a bit of 3D graphics modelling over the years, and could see that the underlying issue wasn’t obvious to those debating the perspective. I wrote to the Scotsman pointing out that the BBC was being disingenuous. When you model a virtual 3D scene you have the freedom to put the camera wherever you like, and also to choose the virtual lens. Looking down from a great height with a standard lens would result in a faithful representation of the land masses. But what the BBC’s modellers had done was to use a wide angle lens and move the virtual camera position much closer to the south of England. This has the effect of making the nearer land masses bulge larger, and those further north to taper off rapidly in perspective. The maps changed significantly two weeks later. (Yes – they were even worse at first! Check out the original map here)

There’s a further problem. The land mass is not just seen from an angle. It is also on a sphere, so Scotland, further away from the camera, is also disappearing over the curve of the earth. None of this is evident. We cannot interpret what is happening, because no lines of latitude and longitude are shown. To make matters worse the temperature numbers and place names do not get smaller when they apply to further places, further undermining our ability to understand the perspective and see the true size of Scotland.

2) BBC Projection with latitude and longitude

Did you know that the mainland of Shetland is 60 miles long, far greater than the distance between Edinburgh and Glasgow? No? But how could you? We’re not shown this in a comprehensible way. Look at the BBC weather map and try to reconcile this with the tiny mark that represents Shetland. Then compare the size of a rectangle over Cornwall with one over the North of Scotland.

Why am I so concerned about what seems a trivial issue, and one which the BBC has already addressed? Well I believe it’s far from trivial – and current depictions are still misleading. This has a profound effect on our understanding of who and where we are in the world. It’s recognised that different countries choose different cartographic projections to reflect their sense of themselves. An American world map might have the US in the centre, with the Atlantic and Europe far off to the right and the Pacific and Far East to the left. America is large, and is the centre of the universe. The Mercator projection of the world which we’re familiar with keeps lines of latitude and longitude horizontal and vertical. As a navigational tool it’s still useful. But we can readily see how it distorts area, with Greenland massively stretched. The Gall-Peters projection is an alternative. James Gall first published this in 1855 in the Scottish Geographical Magazine. Filmmaker Arno Peters independently reinvented it in 1967 and presented it as a way of righting an injustice being perpetrated on less developed countries by under-representing their significance. These maps distort the outlines of countries to some extent, but their depiction of area is correct. Greenland is put back in its place. But the real shocker is just how large Africa is. It is just so much bigger a continent than we ever imagined. In fact the Third World, in areas below the Equator, seems bigger altogether, while Europe and the countries of the north seem in reality to be lesser areas than we have grown to believe. The subtle distortions caused as map-makers attempt to draw the surface of a globe onto a flat surface can have a disproportionate effect on our perceptions.

So back to Scotland, and its place in the BBC animated weather maps. First, forget the fact that the camera swoops over different areas in turn. It’s the big wide shot which creates a false impression. And false it is. Have a look at a less distorted map of Britain. Yes, Scotland is rather more than just a head on England’s body. Slide a map of Scotland on top of one of England and it’s surprising how similar they are. The land area of Scotland is 30,414 square miles, while England has an area of 50,346 square miles.

When it comes to renewables and the natural resources of wave and tide Scotland doesn’t just have faster coastal currents. We have more coast. Scotland has 10,246 miles of coastline. England’s coastline is 1,988 miles. So Scotland’s more than just a wee plot on the northern fringes of England.

In fact Scotland is almost exactly a third of the area of the entire UK. Look at Map 3. It looks positively weird. England is not the familiar bloated mass to the south, with David Cameron’s vaunted ‘broad shoulders’. What is so weird is that this realistic projection seems odd – so conditioned have we become by the BBC to believe that we Scots are less than we truly are.

Is Scotland big enough to make its own way in the world? Our response to that question is based not just on economic statistics, but also on an instinctive assessment of physical size and natural resources. In the coming seven months the BBC needs to make every effort to be seen to be impartial. These weather map animations literally show a south of England perspective. They are biased and misleading. Other networks manage to use simple and accurate graphics. Now it’s time for the BBC to follow – and present a true, fair and accurate image of Scotland and its place within the British Isles.

Comments (115)

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  1. xsticks says:

    The Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre had something on this – quite amusing

    Travelling by Weather Map – Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre

    1. tartanfever says:

      Ha, cheers xsticks, that video is brilliant.

    2. The Sky news map is even worse as their’s doesn’t include Shetland at all. They do have the whole of Belgium and The Netherlands on their map but not the whole of the UK.

    3. Temple Melville says:

      http://www.scotcoin.com – do something to make a difference

  2. Morag says:

    Not to be a bore, but what if you include the Scilly Isles? Seems only fair.

    1. tartanfever says:

      Hi Morag,

      Scilly Isles are pretty much due west of Land’s End, so no further south than the most southerly point of mainland England.

      1. NJS says:

        The Cornwall bit is inaccurate as it’s not only showing Cornwall but Devon as well.
        Plymouth isn’t in Cornwall.

      2. allie says:

        … and then there’s the Channel Islands …..

      3. Alec says:

        The southernmost point of the Scilly Isles is further south than the southernmost point of the UK (which in turn in further south than Lands End).


    2. Hi Morag – you’re right. Jersey and Guernsey aren’t part of the UK, but the Scillies are, so should have included them. I suspect it doesn’t change the result a great deal!

      1. wilma wilson says:

        What currency is used in Guernsey and Jersey if they are not part of the UK?

        1. Terence Saunders says:

          Guernsey, Jersey, and the isle of Man use their own currency based on the pound. You can spend UK pounds on all of them but not the other way around. They each have their own government and can make their own laws and tax rates. They are part of the British Isles but not the United Kingdom. They are crown protectorates although I shouldn’t think they were too enamored when they were occupied during the second world war. Deserted, by their protectorate.

  3. Derek Morrison says:

    Now, if you centered the map of the British Isles on Shetland – not London, then London, Kent and the whole SE of England would just ‘disappear’. London to Dover is 65mls. Image it for yourselves. Bliss

    1. Jamie O'Connor says:

      Ah, another moany Scot, what a suprise. Wish you lot had gotten independence but you STILL would have found something to moan about.

      1. Fraser says:

        No one more disappointed as we are, we were trying to get rid of England and be better off too

        1. John says:

          Your country is Tiny , you have 5 million people in it roughly it’s pathetic it’s just one big national park basically that Nobody wants to live in As It’s dull . Nothing happens there You got no night life or charisma Nothing it’s pathetic

          1. Andrew says:

            England is not much bigger. Scotland is bigger than a lot of countries in Europe. As for nightlife, have you heard there are actual real life cities in Scotland with real life nightclubs? But you’re right we do have some glorious national parks and countryside, mountains, lochs…best in the world actually! Tell me what s-hole country you were dragged up from?

      2. Ken says:

        You still alive ?

  4. Lorraine Fannin says:

    This is a really good and important post by Robert Sproul-Cran. As he says, we are conditioned to accept the distortion of Scotland – in all its forms. We are also very thirled to look at economic statistics as the only valid indicator of size. Our natural resources are expressed in terms of investment or return, not in scientific or geographical form which they should be. Let’s get some landmass and coastline figures out there. The BBC should be leading on this.

    1. Ian Rae says:

      This map has been on TV for years, why now is it suddenly “politically” important?
      Grow up and get a life!

      1. Neil Anderson says:

        “This map has been on TV for years, why now is it suddenly “politically” important?
        Grow up and get a life!”

        It isn’t “suddenly” politically important. Many people have been aware of this gross misrepresentation for many years. Witness the text within the body of the article ” The Gall-Peters projection is an alternative. James Gall first published this in 1855 in the Scottish Geographical Magazine. Filmmaker Arno Peters independently reinvented it in 1967 and presented it as a way of righting an injustice being perpetrated on less developed countries by under-representing their significance.”

        Think you better start watching less TV Ian Rae.

      2. James says:

        Well, we down in the Channel Islands are constrained to pay licence fees for TV (even though we aren’t part of the UK – we are Crown Dependencies). The fact that BBC Weather doesn’t ever cover us is one of the many little ways in which we feel we are being forced to pay over the odds for an inadequate service.

        I am sure that many Scots feel much the same way.

        BTW, we would argue that we in Jersey and Guernsey already have what is effectively a currency union with the UK (locally-issued pounds, backed by our Treasury department), so anyone who tells you that you couldn’t have a Scots pound is lying through their teeth.

        1. Shamur says:

          i did not doubt that we would have been able to keep the pound. Any other currency wouldn’t be good for the rUK. Alex Salmond was right, we would have kept the pound but too many doubters unfortunately.

      3. Terry Mac. says:

        Surely that makes it worse!

  5. Alaine Mckee says:

    Thanks for writing about this – it’s a massive annoyance to have our country misrepresented on the map. I got a screengrab of the Scotland only map a few weeks ago and checked it with photoshop. On the BBC map the distances between Inverness and Glasgow, and Glasgow and Dumfries are identical!

    In reality, as the crow flies, the distances are:
    Glasgow – Dumfries: 60.5 miles
    Glasgow – Inverness: 111.5 miles

  6. Reblogged this on A Pictur-Yes-que Viewpoint from the Nethan Valley and commented:
    The BBC’s daily attempt to belittle Scotland. Spain does the same with the Basque Country in their weather reports.

  7. Abulhaq says:

    Through all this perceptual distortion the regions that always get a specific mention are in England. The generic terms the north, the west just about covers Scotland and Wales. Then we have the English midlands and East Anglia (a confected name), the English south west and of course London. The weather in the latter is always presented as being of some significance compared to the “outlying.regions”. The south of England also seems to have an abundance of data gathering weather stations compared to Scotland; the isle of Wight having three for instance. As the distorted map syndrome manifests the truth, the facts about Scotland are conventionally subject to official redaction.

    1. Marconatrix says:

      East Anglia a ‘confected name’ ? Sorry it goes back to the time of the Anglosaxon settlements, the land of the East Angles, (just as Essex is where the East Saxons set up shop), divided between the North Folk and the South Folk. Otherwise I agree entirely with this article and the general drift of your comment.

      OTOH, Cornwall despite its magnified presence is also an ignored ‘outlying region’. Ten percent of the Cornish electorate signed a petition demanding their own assembly a few years back, the time when Prescott was banging on about ‘regional assemblies’ for England (not that Cornwall is really a part of England, you understand), and the government simply quietly binned it. Now that’s what being ignored means.

      1. Abulhaq says:

        There was as you correctly state a kingdom of the East Angles but the usage of the geographical name in the form East Anglia appears to be quite modern. In literature it does not seem to go back very far. There was an imperialist lust for Latinizing English names around 1900 as in Weston (super mare) and Bognor (regis). The sooner Kernow gets recognition the better; ignored also exploited and patronized. I hope we may soon be in a position to offer help.
        Maps are signs. Maps influence thought. Maps betray trends. Maps may tell lies. Maps are power.

    1. hektorsmum says:

      I just loved that photo, now could we just get the weather people to use it.

  8. yerkitbreeks says:

    For years I’ve always thought what fun it would be eg at Christmas or some charity event, for the weatherman/woman to show a chart looking from North to South ! Scotland would be HUGE

  9. mendipnomad says:

    The most southerly point in mainland England is not Lands End but Lizard Point (Lands End is further west, but Lizard Point is further south) and actually the Isles of Scilly are southwest of Lands End and so the most southerly point in the UK is on St Agnus. Yes, the helicopter will likely still be in Scotland halfway through the journey (there’s a *lot* of sea between Shetland and the rest of Scotland) but if you’re going to gripe about English understanding of Scottish geography it helps if you get the English geography right.

  10. Dave says:

    It was actually the BBC maps that prompted me to collect some other interesting maps of Scotland over on the NNS forum here:


  11. Cal says:

    Mickle Flugga is, of course, a separate island to the north of Unst, not on Unst itself. Great piece though.

    1. Alec says:

      Nor is Muckle Flugga the most northerly point in the UK.


      1. Marconatrix says:

        I believe it was the most northerly inhabited place in Britain when the lighthouse was manned.

  12. The cartographic representation of Scotland (and the British Isles) is a very interesting topic. As Dr Sproul-Can says, cartography has a massive influence on how we see ourselves in the world as well as the world itself. There’s actually been a lot on this in Scot Lit – RA Jamieson, Margaret Elphinstone, Kathleen Jamie – all of whom show or write about Scotland from a Nordic or Northern perspective, showing just how northern Scotland (or the north of Scotland) in relation to the Scandinavian Peninsula, the Faroes, Iceland, Greenland and the Arctic.

  13. Ian Rae says:

    God you’re right, the BBC’s screwed up the weather map so everyone rush out and vote yes!
    I mean where could it end, they could angle the camera to make Braveheart Salmond look like a short ass chancer instead of a looming elder statesman, oh no, hang on a minute…………..

  14. ronruth2013 says:

    I recall, in the late 70’s or early 80’s, seeing an oil industry map showing the UK, the North Sea and Norway, from a viewpoint somewhere above the Norwegian Sea and looking South. England faded into insignificance!

  15. stephen says:

    What happens if you include the Falkland islands?

    1. Marconatrix says:

      You might very soon end up with an empire on which the sun never sets … I think we’ve been there already …

    2. Muscleguy says:

      Why stop at the Falklands, what about Pitcairn?

      1. Marconatrix says:

        And Scotland’s share of the British Antarctic Territory 😉

  16. David Goodall says:

    It seems a bit overly-sensitive, looking for the insult. How small would the land mass be to fit in the Shetlands from directly overhead? It’s precisely because of the distance from Caithness to the Shetlands that you can’t fit it all onto an efficient map. Is the suggestion that it’s a cartographers’ conspiracy? Or are you joining the bitter together campaign and suggesting Scots are too stupid to work out their worth in the world without reference to the evening weather, or without a benevolent clever person to explain it all?

    1. Abulhaq says:

      The world map displaying the British Empire was a political and psychological totem. All those red or pink bits suggested power. Map design and map use is never “neutral”. Cartographers have political opinions and will do what is required. Boundaries, islands and detached territories are conflict flashpoints. Syria produces maps that do not recognise the Turkish occupation of Alexandretta (Iskenderun) and its hinterland, Hatay. The Chinese, Japanese and Russians dispute over peninsulas, islets and rocks. The boundaries of the state of Israel are fluid and the current issue over Russian speaking Crimea shows borders are merely lines on paper maps not stone tablets. I find it very amusing to read English historians who appear to think the anglo-scottish border was God-given, ignoring the toing and froing, to Scotland’s advantage in early centuries, of the line. Early history is a mine-field. It has nothing to do with being over-sensitive or stupid but a great deal to do with, as is the theme of the above article, “perception”. In politics perception carries as much weight sometimes rather more, than reality.

      1. David Goodall says:

        I wouldn’t suggest early history has anything to do with sensitivity; I’d suggest however, over-examining weather reports to drag out some dodgy semiotics to perpetuate a victim culture does. And I’m keen to get your sources as to what historians – English or otherwise – aren’t aware of the ephemeral nature of the Anglo-Scottish border. I’m also unclear as to what early history has to do with the skewed perspective on the weather map; why it’s “a minefield” and how you’d present the full length of the uk in a perpendicular aspect, while maintaining any useful detail. As far as “perception” goes – that is exactly the point of my initial comment. This is all perception, which – as you’re no doubt aware – is, by definition, subjective, politics and reality notwithstanding.

      2. Abulhaq says:

        My argumentation would be well understood on mainland Europe. This is the great problem. The “British” style is to think so literally, so differently. Anything diverging from this is perceived as irrational or nonsensical or romantic or just “foreign”. Scottish nationalism is portrayed as all four by some commentators. This issue is not actually about BBC maps, it is about the particular mindset that operates behind. A subjectivity that we in Scotland now recognise as such and no longer have need of. By the way, “victim culture” is a piece of subjective projection, a perception of our case and as skewed as those digital maps.

      3. David Goodall says:

        Your argumentation is perfectly well understood, I just don’t happen to agree. I’ve asked you to cite examples to your “English historians” comment, but you seem to fall back on rhetoric and sophistry, rather than make a direct answer. Yes – victim culture is a subjective perception: I perceive pieces such as this, and several others to be just that – my perception. Just as your claim that your methodology would be more acceptable in Europe, and that British reasoning is more logic-driven, are subjective and open to debate. And the main part of the article is about BBC weather maps; I see little validity in claiming midstream that it wasn’t even a horse you were on, let alone change your mount.

      4. Abulhaq says:

        a historian who is iconic of that certain anglo-centrism is Hugh Trevor Roper. his shade lies over contemporary histories.
        actually very few British historians would claim to know anything of Scotland’s history or consider that a impediment to the exercise of their craft. at the other end of the scale is Norman Davies, but he is considered something of a revisionist maverick in high table circles.

  17. Zen Broon says:

    Given that central unionist narratives focus on ‘smallness’ and ‘being part of something bigger’ the BBCs politicised – on purpose or not – cartography is far from trivial.

    I’m surprised no-one has done a quick vox-pop in the streets of (say) Glasgow to find out which representation the public think is correct. I’ll bet most think it is the BBC distortion.

    ….could also ask a Yes/No follow up…now that would be interesting.

  18. Ian Rae says:

    It’ll change again when Shetland & Orkney leave an independent Scotland?
    Oh yes, and take ‘their’ oil with them.
    What then Wee Eck?

    1. bellacaledonia says:

      Great point.

    2. Taranaich says:

      Then Shetland & Orkney will take their oil with them. Don’t see the problem.

      1. Marconatrix says:

        I’m told they’d be counted as enclaves and only get a few miles of oil-free coastal waters. Then again, maybe they should join up with an independent Faroes, actually not all that far from Shetland when you see them plotted correctly on a map, and claim a huge slice of seabed. The anthem of this new nordic nation would naturally have to be “Whale Meat Again” 😉

  19. Ross says:

    It’s incorrect to try and compare longtitute/latitude rectangles in the north to rectangles in the south. They are different sizes in real life and as such should not look the same size when viewed on a map. You are completely correct about the perspective though and this does alter the perceived distance between places as you move along the North South axis.

    Also if the Peters Projection was used to represent the UK, Scotland would look smaller in relation to England compared to current 2D maps with the Mercator representation.

    And finally, and I’m just putting this out there, the weather satalites we use are almost certainly sitting in geostationary orbit over the UK. For this to happen they must be above the equator to the South of the UK. Maybe, just maybe, to easily marry up the Satalite images with the the graphics the map has to have a similar perspective to the Satalite?! Maybe the perspective is governed by a technical limitation rather than the fact the BBC is bias?

    1. Dave says:

      The satellite excuse is a good one but modern software can easily correct for that distortion. This is how some of the commercial TV channels manage to produce realistic weather maps with satellite overlays. You can check out the current UK satellite images here and you can see that the BBC indeed feel the need to distort them even more.


    2. Alec says:

      See also the lament about Shetland being relegated to a box. That was done by Scottish outlets just as much, and it was because of the wide stretch of uninteresting sea. Space concerns plus the limitations of 198/90s graphics technology which might have been considerably less robust than the £15 supermarket-bought mobile phones we have now.

      Fair Isle often was included in a sub-box, sometimes not even included at all. Orkney might be in another box.

      How often did we sea St. Kilda let alone Rockall?


  20. your friendly friend says:

    This entire thing is laughable. I thought it was odd a few days ago when I first started reading a lot about this Scottish independence issue, but the further I read the better the whole thing makes me feel. This entire thing is a comedy that makes the rest of the world’s trivial issues seem to actually matter. Thanks for making me feel a little less bad about my own nation’s politics.

    1. bellacaledonia says:

      What entire thing is laughable? What is your own nation?

    2. Abulhaq says:

      la commedia sarà presto finita….

  21. DaveK says:

    Your complaint, then, is that Scotland looks smaller when it’s further away. Suggest you write to whoever is in charge of the laws of perspective, or, failing that, Doctor Who.

    1. alharron says:

      The complaint is that the weather chooses the perspective which makes Scotland looks small, as opposed to any projection which gives a more equal representation of the UK’s relative size. What would be lost by showing a top-down view of the UK? Plenty of other, larger countries use that perspective.

  22. Muscleguy says:

    Thanks for the one with the Mercator lines on it. Made me realise Shetland is not just the most Northerly part of Scotland but also the most Easterly.

  23. FairBairn says:

    Calm doon! This perspective, to my knowledge, started when the weather reports had satellite pictures available. I think that the satellites are in orbit round the equator, therefore the British Isles will slope backwards.

    1. FairBairn says:

      Sorry, reading back, it;s been covered

    2. Marconatrix says:

      There are many projections to choose from, conical projections like in school atlases, the transverse mercator projection used by the OS … And the Met Office can get it right when they want to :

  24. Ally says:

    Seem to remember there was an episode of West Wing where someone showed a map of what the world should look like if represented accurately.

    Apparently the southern hemisphere & especially Africa are usually made to look less significant in land mass.

    Would appear bias in mapping has been going on for a long time.

  25. This post seems to invite the reaction that this is in fact a nefarious projection, while the actual answer for this is much, much simpler.

    Weather satellites are geostationary objects. The easiest way to keep a geostationary satellite is to launch it near the equator. The further past the equator you get (north or south), the more distortion you get.

    In order to keep as faithful to the data from the satellites, you would want to show the map as it was seen by the satellite (with an angle that much prefers closer destinations to the equator). Any attempt to redraw data from this angle is likely to cause inaccuracies, however minute they may be.

    1. You are right about geostationary satellites being near the equator, but the UK is so far north (latitude 50 deg +) that any view from such a satellite would be hugely distorted, simply because the surface is tilted so far back. The maps must be processed to correct for this, and it could easily be done to give a more uniform projection. I’ve never been too bothered by the political implications, but the current maps have always struck me as being dumb, why not just do it properly, rather than going for some childish idea of a ‘realistic’ view?

  26. James Allen says:

    For something x1000 worse than this, try living in the southern hemisphere, or Africa.

  27. David Goodall says:

    Trevor Roper may well cast a shade, but with so few publications, and so much divided opinion on his work, I very much doubt the shade he casts is one of leader. Even were it so, his Scottish history is published posthumously, so how much influence it has, I again question. The idea that “very few British historians would claim ….” Is at best fanciful. Where do you get the idea that Scottish history is some hidden gem, unknown to all academics, save those happy few, and of course yourself? This is unsubstantiated, pretty, but ultimately empty prosaic musing. But hey ho, it’s been enjoyable. 🙂

    1. Abulhaq says:

      As iconic of the oxbridge academic history outlook “Lord Dacre” does cast a long shadow. He is not the originator, or even original, simply one among so many of the type. As to the marginalising of Scottish history I think if you were to ask the likes of Tom Devine or Norman Davies or Linda Colley they would agree with me that too little is taught, and that of the “wrong sort”, even in Scotland. Some cynic opined that history is 10% fact 90% interpretation ie opinion and subjective perception, there being no such beast as objective history. History is not a science, clinical exactitude is not a requirement. The victors and the top dogs write the history books the rest simply live through it. On 18th september Scottish history will, I trust, be refreshed. Slàinte!

      1. David Goodall says:

        A wee point (I’m really not taking issue with everything – I just do enjoy going and froing with you!): I’d alter the “history is written by…” to this: history is known by what is written – inasmuch as it’s not always the victors who write history; it’s often the survivors, and revisionist accounts often replace the received wisdom, but those versions are not necessarily the whole account.

        Starkey is a twat.


        I think what I find disturbing about this article, and about various comments of late on things like political cartoons, is that they do reek of victim culture, and of “look at them, see what they do to us” – when in fact the denigration of either side is perpetuated by people in both countries: Andrew Neil is a prime example of a Scot who seems aggressively disparaging of anything Scottish (let alone bent toward independence).

        There are also enough historians (Scottish and otherwise) who perpetuate the other mythos of the warrior poet etc. Neither is healthy. The Declaration of Arbroath, so often waved as something other than an appeal to the Pope, cites a ludicrous regal lineage that never happened, but which has been taken by numerous historians to be fact.

        Basically historians slant their texts to suit their agenda, and it’s not a uniquely English activity. I’d be happier with this independence debate if there were a lot less demonisation from either side towards each other, and a lot less canonisation from either side towards themselves!

        I repeat – a delight typing at you and reading your replies!

        September 18th will be the catalyst for a game change, regardless of the result.

      2. Abulhaq says:

        Fàilte…We do all need to grow up. What i hope and desire for sovereign Scotland is a mature and reasoned internal and external discourse on matters such as history and culture. Do we need a continental type intelligentsia for that? In the heat of the moment there is a tendency to fall back on brickbat throwing. It is lamentable that so much energy is given over to chucking stuff over the wall. One ought to turn the other cheek but when the primitive bloodlust is up?
        The Declaration of Arbroath is not quite the Magna Carta but it’s getting there. Interestingly, the latter owes its fame more to American political historians than English. A case of distance lending mystical enchantment. Humans do seemingly need myth; myths of origin, the supposed Scythian origin of Scots ( the aforementioned Declaration refers) or that pharaoh’s daughter Scota being aids to creating that certain difference. And did those feet set foot in Glastos mud? All quite innocent if not taken too seriously. Plato called such “the noble lie”, I think. A unifying tale that no one actually believes but binds in harmonious synthesis. I do find it amusing that two in-your-face symbols of Scottishness, the kilt and clan tartan, are also likely confections of the myth machine: kilt is a northern English dialect word and tartan is probably French. However the first “Welsh” literature may have been composed in Scotland, so you see the fun we are going to have straightening things out. Did you know that the ancient Gaelic words for elephant /fil/ and well /bior/ have semitic cognates? Just thought i’d throw that in to keep the waters nice and muddy and cosmopolitan. Ciao!

    2. Abulhaq says:

      How could I forget the extant David Starkey! Scotland “a feeble little country”, Alex Salmond ” a Caledonian Hitler” and other “Jock-Shocking” stuff. Albeit a maverick, the wrong class so not quite one of us etc. his views are quite establishment. He would agree with all the Great British popular history stuff served up on tv in which Scotland is a footnote and Wales is taken as read. At their crudest his vulgarian views reflect the online comments found in all the London media. He is in favour of “noisy whining” Scotland getting the hell out of England’s backyard though. He is the unashamedly honest face of anglocentric history.

  28. Foo says:

    I’d be interested to know where you got the respective lengths of coastline from:
    “We have more coast. Scotland has 10,246 miles of coastline. England’s coastline is 1,988 miles.”

    That seems wrong to me, see:

    In which case, it is 6261 miles for England vs 11,550 for Scotland, including islands. You may be using other figures, but if you are complaining about accuracy of the BBC weather map, then it’s best to ensure your figures are fully accurate!

    BTW, I believe Argyll and Bute has a longer coastline than the entirety of France.

  29. Iain says:

    Perhaps the BBC should project the weather presenter the same way? No, I didn’t think so!

  30. Alec says:

    It took off from Muckle Flugga on the Shetland island of Unst, headed for Land’s End, and stopped half way, near Lockerbie.

    Muckle Flugga is not part of Unst: it’s a separate island. Nor is the most northerly point in the UK: Out Stack is.

    Land’s End is not the most southerly point on the UK Mainland: the Lizard is. The Lizard is not the most southerly point in the UK: the Western Rocks on the Isles of Scilly are.

    A mid-way point on a line between the Out Stack and the Western Rocks would be further south than areas of England.

    Now you might say that this is a bit of a cheat, to include such far flung islands.

    Yes. It’s also a cheat to use different criteria.


  31. Thanks for including our video (hi, Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre here!). Did you realise we’re playing in Glasgow tomorrow & Friday (March 20 & 21 2014 http://tinyurl.com/SoxGlas14 ) If you’re reading this email after the fact, Google us, we’re on somewhere all year round, and the Edinburgh Fringe in August. Cheers.

    Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre
    Twitter @falsettososocks

  32. Reblogged this on My Little Underground and commented:
    Ever sat there wondering why the south of England and London was so bloody huge on the BBC’s weather map? Ever thought ‘hang on, this isn’t right is it?.

    This then is for you. This explains just how the BBC (and other media organisations) boost the importance of London and the South East while lessening that of the north of England and Scotland. It’s a wonderful wee blog….

  33. All seems like a fuss over nothing to me, though I can see why some scottish people would find it annoying. I reckon someone just thought a 3D map would look better than a 2D one; I REALLY don’t see a massive conspiracy behind this.

    1. David Goodall says:

      Yup – it’s people looking for a grievance.

      1. Marconatrix says:

        As if our public school elite aren’t forever banging on about ‘fair play’, ‘level playing fields’, and all the rest. Hardly surprising that we view them with the contempt they richly deserve. Saying ‘England’ when you mean Great Britain or the UK, is exactly the same as saying ‘man’ when you mean ‘person’ and so forth. Of course if you belong to the dominant side of the equation the injustice goes unnoticed, at least until those getting done down start to make a fuss. Emotional? Irrational? Childish? Yer, right!

  34. Sean says:

    This is bloody childish

    1. Marconatrix says:

      Depends on your perspective 😉

      1. Dave says:

        It may be childish but it seeems to be working. I just heard a project feartie farmer on GMS state that he is voting no because “Scotland is smaller than Yorkshire”.

  35. I made comment on the maps a few years ago,and was almost called stupid for complaining about something of no real importance.It is a subtle way of making people think that they are less than what we really are,we make up 33/4% of mainland Britain,and England 57% Wales a shade under 10% but from the maps shown it appears that Wales is a bit bigger England a great deal bigger and Scotland including all of the islands that make us much smaller.It is intended to get into the minds of people,even so called clever people fall for it,the pseudo-intellectual falls for it most often.I asked if they could put lines of latitude and longitude but told they couldn’t because they “straighten” the map to make it more easily understood,good excuse I suppose.

  36. Brian Fleming says:

    I’d not seen the BBC Scotland weather programme for many years until just recently when I tuned in to BBC Scotland through filmon.com. What a shock! The programme is an ideological construct from start to finish, clearly aimed at telling Scots they live in a small insignificant backwater of a much bigger entity. It was utterly appalling. I’ve been anti-BBC for almost 40 years, but it’s getting worse, of that I have no doubt.

  37. adriansearle says:

    GREAT piece. So true. Highlights the utter disdain London has for Scotland.

  38. Statgeek (@StatgeekUK) says:

    “Did you know that the mainland of Shetland is 60 miles long, far greater than the distance between Edinburgh and Glasgow?”

    I posted about the size of the Shetland Islands a wee while back – https://twitter.com/StatgeekUK/status/641290092569432065

  39. Mike Kapusniak says:

    Got an intellectually ignorant and arrogant response from the BBC when I raised this issue with them when they first introduced this travesty of a weather map. Have no complaints when map projections equate physical area to population or to economic sizes when relevant. Weather is a physical thing which has to be mapped on a relatively equal area basis to be properly and relationally understood. If they insist on maintaining the present distortion then the GB map needs to be inverted with Shetland and Scotland being disproportionately large, and England proportionately small, for 8% of Weather Forecasts, with corresponding population-related time for Wales and Northern Ireland to appear as oversized. Anything less is a form of institutional and imperial racism.

  40. janet bell says:

    We should start a campaign to educate the people about this and to make it a national issue. Publicity is the key to this e.g a televised debate to encourage the people to canvas their MP for a debate in parliament. After all the people own the BBC through their licence fees. I agree with you that it is a crucial issue with regard to people’s political perceptions .

  41. Aldo says:

    Have you heard of curvature of the earth? Scotland is often oversized on maps, if you allow for curcature Scotland and the Scandinavian countries shrink considerably.

  42. George Doyle says:

    Why not? Hundreds of countries have managed going independent, it won’t happen over night, about 3yr at least, but that leaves Scotland negotiating a prace to give thr union but a quarter is absurd, let’s pay the same % after every single country in the empire would have to pay, how cam we afford it,? Well we will be debt free, maybe have to pay them a few hundred million to leave the union,
    1 people keep dying so billions come in to gov in inheritance tax, firms keep operating which keeps business tax rolling in to Hollywood, employers keep paying tax, consumers will keep buying, pushing the economy, leads to commuters needing trains who pay which is taxed & the train workers need to pay tax, same with thousands of businesses, then we have something most countries don’t have ( why England spent so much on the no campaign,” oh you’ll br bankrupt without us, well why are you spending millions on the no campaign, 1 word, or 2 , OIL & OPPRESSION , & a fantastic tourist industry which also drives the economy, we’d end up richer then Sweden, but let’s say all that’s not enough, we’re eligible for up to e trillion ,even more from the international community, no interest,time limit or interest, all succrsful countries in West are in debt,

  43. E says:

    This is so dumb. Scotland is smaller than Ireland (island) and WAY smaller than England. The reason it looks small on maps is because it is small.

    1. Andrew says:

      Scotland is not smaller than Ireland, and England is like 50% bigger so calm down. Scotland is bigger than most countries in Europe. The reason England don’t want Scotland to become independent is because it will show how insignificant Little England will be on a world scale when the UK collapses. When we are independent we should dig a wide channel from the Irish Sea to the North Sea and keep you lot out. Bye!

  44. G says:

    No being funny but the whole map of the world is a misrepresentation, for all countries not only Scotland. However most people know that or just don’t care as size isn’t everything unless you are very insecure.

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