MSPs ban public bodies from putting Shetland in a box on map

A new law has been passed at the Scottish Parliament to stop Shetland being put in a box on maps of Scotland.

The new Bill will compel government bodies to avoid putting Shetland in a box on maps.

Yesterday, Holyrood passed a law to give island communities the opportunity to access more powers.

The Islands (Scotland) Bill was put forward following the Our Islands Our Future campaign, carried out ahead of the Scottish independence referendum to demand more power for the islands.

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The new Bill will compel government bodies to avoid putting Shetland in a box on maps.

As part of the Bill MSPs agreed to have Shetland accurately represented on any public authority maps, instead of being boxed-off in a non-geographically correct location, after a campaign by Shetland MSP Tavish Scott.

If Ministers or authorities believe there are reasons not comply with this, they are required to provide these.

Shetland lies 93 miles north of the coast of the mainland, but is often boxed-off on maps to allow the whole of Scotland to be depicted.

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Mr Scott dubbed this a “lazy mapping practice”, adding: “The logistics of getting to and from Shetland are all too often overlooked, and this has a serious impact on the economies of the islands.

“Depicting Shetland’s geographical position accurately is important, and it’s a fitting amendment given ‘island proofing’ is intended to show the government is conscious of islanders’ needs.”

The new law, passed unanimously, means government and public sector legislation and policies will have a duty to take the impact on the islands into consideration, known as island-proofing, and will also lead to the creation of a National Islands Plan.

Opposition MSPs secured changes to the legislation at the final stage to allow greater devolution of power to the islands and retrospective island-proofing of laws and policy, as called for by Orkney Islands Council, both on request and subject to permission being granted by Ministers.

Islands Minister Humza Yousaf said the Bill was an “important milestone”.

He said: “This Bill is not for government nor for Parliament nor even for the agencies that will play a key role.

“It is about people and it is for the people - those who have contributed to our islands’ heritage, those who contribute to their well-being now and those who are yet to come for whom this Bill gives them and us all a strong platform on which to build a bright future for Scotland’s islands.”

Tory MSP Peter Chapman said: “This Bill is a positive step for the islands and we as a group support the Bill believing that it can make a difference to our island communities.

“The main point of this Bill was always to empower island communities and this can now start on the islands through their own councils and authorities and this will be something which we will be monitoring post-legislatively to ensure that island authorities are achieving the results intended.”