Hilarious Controversy Erupts Over Scotland's New Map Law

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It's all getting a bit serious over in the UK. Not because of Brexit (which is going totally fine), but because mapmakers won't stop putting the Scottish island of Shetland in the wrong place. Well, kinda. As Shetland and its associated islands are 150+ miles northeast of Britain, mapmakers tend to put them in a disembodied box floating off the Scottish coast. Putting them in their geographically precise location would result in a map of such immense scale that it'd be useless for everything but navigating to Shetland.

As of yesterday, however, public authorities -- which includes the UK's official mapping agency, Ordnance Survey -- are now banned from putting the wee bairn in the corner (of the map), and that Shetland from now until the end of time "must be displayed in a manner that accurately and proportionately represents their geographical location in relation to the rest of Scotland." Why the change? Well, it's all thanks to the tireless work of MSP Tavish Scott, a Scottish politician who argued that the box-in-a-map thing was "intensely annoying" to islanders and "created a false impression of the challenges they face on account of their remote location." That's some pretty solid reasoning.

Hilarious Controversy Erupts Over Scotland's New Map Law
NordNordWest/Wikimedia Commons
Although we don't think it's going to help Shetlanders much with their biggest daily challenge: avoiding being burned alive in a wicker man.

Thankfully, the new law does provide an escape clause for agencies if they want/dare to put Shetland in a box, just so long as they provide their reasoning. And if anyone wants to hear a good one, we recommend this one from Ordnance Survey, which reiterated that this new law means that it'll "be virtually impossible to print a paper map, with any usable detail, of this vast geography," and that such inset boxes allowed mapmakers to avoid "publishing maps which are mostly sea." Cartography: Since time immemorial, it's been a hotbed of drama.

Adam Wears is on Twitter and Facebook, and has a newsletter dedicated to depressing history facts. It's not as heartbreakingly sad as it sounds, promise!

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