EUROPEAN bureaucrats will push forward legislation today to force the Scottish Executive to change place-names that offend or discriminate on the grounds of race and gender.
In a move the Nationalists described as the "ultimate madness in political correctness", it has taken only a quorum of four Euro commissioners from Italy, Germany, France and Spain to redraw Scotland’s map.
The German commissioner, Arlo Pilof, the architect of the 2006 Race and Gender Equality Imposition Code (conformity), an amendment to existing rules, said: "We believe many names do not conform, and we started with Scotland because it is the worst of the culprits with offensive names such as Skinflats, near Grangemouth."
However, he promised the Scottish Executive could apply for grants of up to €43.6 million (28 million) to facilitate change.
That was dismissed yesterday by the Scottish Chambers of Commerce as a "drop in the ocean". A spokesman said: "Changing stationery and business cards could cost that alone."
The commissioners in Brussels have demanded "race and gender-sensitive" names found for towns such as Motherwell, Blackburn, Helensburgh, Fort William, Campbeltown, Peterhead, Lewis and Fraserburgh be changed.
A Scottish parliamentary group, set up in anticipation of the legislation, has made a start. Fort William, in the shadow of Britain’s highest mountain, would become Fort Nevis by 2006, under one suggestion.
Edinburgh City Council is considering revising Arthur’s Seat because the commissioners said its ancient name contained sexual undertones "likely to offend those visiting Edinburgh".
Under the new amendment the word "Glen" could be banned as gender-biased. Scotland Office officials have suggested a change to Vale, as in Valecoe and the Great Vale.
An SNP spokesperson said: "This is monstrous buffoonery, an outrageous waste of resources and politically correct madness.
"I understand, for example, that North Lanarkshire Council will consider plans to change Motherwell to Parentwell," the spokesperson said. "What is Dunbartonshire going to do with Helensburgh?"
Under European rules going back to 1986, a quorum of four member state commissioners have the right to table what is known as a "L.I.L Proof A", a prelude to any legislation which proposes to amend or remove a name or description "relating to a city, town or centre of habitation with more than eight people of voting age".
The four commissioners tabled the L.I.L Proof A in December and today the legislation will go before a committee of ten commissioners. It is expected to be law by 1 April, 2006.
The Scottish Executive had sought to win exemptions for places beginning with "Black", but the bureaucrats were adamant they were racist.
"We could hardly have places like Colouredford or the Coloured Isle, the Coloured Cuillins," said a spokesman.
However, the Executive has come up with an alternative, to revert to the Gaelic rendition of black - dubh - which it believes will be acceptable.
The spokesman added: "They won’t know the difference, hopefully. And Burndubh and Dubhford don’t sound too bad."
However, the greatest difficulty will be experienced by the producers of Ordnance Survey maps.
A spokesman said: "This is a nightmare, amending every map. I understand there will be a hiatus, where old maps are acceptable. But new maps will have to be in place by 2007.
"More cartographers will be needed and the process of re-tooling machines will begin next year.
"Inevitably, the cost will be high and prices will go up. We estimate, for example, a map such as the Landranger series for North Skye will retail at 94.20 by 2007."
Mr Pilof revealed that England would be next on the agenda, citing the Isle of Man as particularly worthy of change.
A Manx spokesman said yesterday: "I hope this is a long way off. We are two-time losers, what with the island’s name and Douglas as the capital. It’s ridiculous, isn’t it?
"It’s as if these people sat there all day and made up this stuff."