It is the island archipelago that marks perhaps the furthest-flung part of the UK, more than 100 miles north of the mainland. And now Shetlanders are demanding their true location is shown in official maps amid growing consternation that they routinely feature in “enclosed boxes” in the wrong part of the country.
Shetland’s MSP is even proposing that new laws ensure the islands are put “in the right place” in maps of Scotland. Tavish Scott has tabled an amendment to this effect in the Islands Bill at Holyrood, claiming islanders feel current maps treat them as an afterthought.
Ministers have already sought to defuse the situation by issuing orders that future official maps must portray the islands accurately, but Mr Scott insists he wants this enshrined in law.
The Islands Bill focuses on provisions designed to strengthen and protect Scotland’s island communities.
Mr Scott said: “Shetlanders are rightly irked when they see Shetland placed in a box in the Moray Firth.
“I strongly believe the Scottish Government should portray the country it serves with accuracy. The principle is important here.”
Some Scottish Government publications have featured Shetland enclosed in a box, lying either in the Moray Firth or just off the north-east coast of the Scottish mainland.
The Islands Bill amendments will be debated this week in Holyrood.
The issue was raised with Scotland’s most senior servant, Permanent Secretary Leslie Evans, by the MSP after a recent Scottish Government strategy on loneliness shifted Shetland’s location south.
Mr Scott added: “From now on, I want to ensure that mistake just cannot happen. Putting Shetland in its appropriate place would go some way to rectifying the perception that the islands are an afterthought.
“It will visually align the government with its stated political commitment to island proofing. I therefore trust the government will accept this amendment.”
The former Liberal Democrat leader’s amendment calls for a “Shetland mapping requirement” to be included in the proposed legislation, which all Scottish public authorities must comply with when publishing a document which includes a map of Scotland.
It stipulates that the Shetland Islands must be displayed in a manner that “accurately and proportionately represents their geographical location in relation to the rest of Scotland” in maps.
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “We have instructed our publishing contractor that future use of images of Scotland in publications must portray our Islands accurately.”
The row has echoes of the controversy which surrounded the depiction of Scotland itself on BBC weather maps, after it last month the corporation returned to a flat appearance. The introduction of the “curved” weather map in 2005 had prompted long-standing consternation that it made Scotland look smaller on the weather map.
The Island Bill was published last Summer with the aim of ensuring that there is a sustained focus across government and the public sector to meet the needs of Scotland’s island communities including the developments of a national Islands Plan.