An Atlas of Opportunity, putting Scotland at the centre of the map

atlas+promo+front+coverA review copy of a book was delivered when I was away visiting my husband in the USA over Christmas and the New Year. Unfortunately I didn’t get it sooner, as it would have been ideal for readers to purchase as a Christmas present. Not my copy mind. I’m keeping it. I’ve already had to fight off a relative who said that I should give it to them because I got it for free.

I’m talking about the new book just published by the Common Weal, an Atlas of Opportunity. It’s a beautifully illustrated and presented large format modern atlas of Scotland, perfect for anyone who’s a map-geek, a lover of Scotland, or a supporter of independence. And if you are all three, like me, then this book presses all the right buttons. The book is a joy to peruse, an object of beauty as well as a substantive and substantial addition to the pro-independence literature of Scotland. It would grace any coffee table or bookshelf.

As the title An Atlas of Opportunity suggests, this is an atlas of Scotland’s potential, an atlas of Scotland’s opportunities and possibilities as an independent country. Designed, written, and compiled by research and design collective Lateral North ( for Common Weal, the atlas is of course printed in Scotland, by Exactaprint in Glasgow.

regnodiscotiaAlthough containing maps displaying the latest in cartography, the atlas commences with some historical maps of Scotland, including the first printed map of Scotland, the Regno di Scotia dating from 1560. The Regno di Scotia was most probably engraved by the Venetian master cartographer Paolo Forlani, who based his map on an earlier map of the British Isles produced by George Lily in 1546. The distortions in this ancient map illustrate just how little was known about the exact shape of Scotland in the 16th century. It could be said that all these centuries later in the 21st, we’re still arguing about the shape of Scotland. This new atlas is the latest contribution to that debate.

productivescotlandThe atlas is divided into six chapters each containing a series of thematic maps exploring aspects of Scotland. There are thirty maps in total, each presented on a full page of the altas facing a page of explanatory text and further information. You will be pleased to know that every one of these maps shows the Northern Isles, Shetland and Orkney, in their correct geographical location and on the same scale as the rest of the map, not stuck in a wee box somewhere off the Moray Firth.

The first chapter,Historic and Natural Scotland, contains maps detailing Scotland’s geography, heritage, world heritage sites and battlefields, National Parks, and tourist routes.

Chapter two, Scot:LAND, contains maps detailing local government, land ownership, development trusts, and population.servingscotland

Chapter three, Serving Scotland, is devoted seven sections detailing road networks, public transport, airports and spaceports, renewable energy, fossil fuels, healthcare, and search and rescue services.

Chapter four, Productive Scotland, contains four maps illustrating the soil, forestry, food, and of course no atlas of Scotland’s opportunities would be complete without a map of the whisky industry.

whiskymapChapter five, Cultural Scotland, is dedicated to Scotland’s cultural heritage, sporting heritage, the cultural scene, creative Scotland, higher and further education, and the Gaelic language. My only slight criticism is that this chapter could have benefited from the addition of a map devoted to the Scots language, and perhaps also a section about the linguistic heritage of Scotland, including Norse and Norn, the extinct Gaelic dialects of Lowland Scotland, as well as the Pictish and Cumbric languages and the evolution of a distinctively Scottish version of Standard English.

The final chapter, Global Scotland, contains three two page maps of the world with Scotland at the centre. These maps show Scotland’s past – our emigrant communities around the world, Scotland’s present, including all the countries which have become independent of the UK, and Scotland’s Global future as an independent nation harnessing its full renewable potential.

This atlas is the antithesis of the BBC weather map which shows Scotland from the perspective of London. This is an atlas which proudly and unashamedly puts Scotland right in the centre and which views this country of ours and the globe from a Scottish perspective. It’s all the better for that. I can’t recommend it highly enough.

You can order copies of the atlas directly from Common Weal by clicking on the ADD TO CART button on the following page.

Alternatively you can email Common Weal directly to order your copy. Send an email to

The atlas costs £30 and P&P is an additional £7. If you purchase two copies of the atlas, P&P is £11, saving £3 on postage. Postage outwith the UK is more expensive, please contact Common Weal for details by emailing them at

15 comments on “An Atlas of Opportunity, putting Scotland at the centre of the map

  1. Andy Anderson says:

    Thanks for the info Paul I will get one as like you I am a map and history geek.

    I have bought a couple of books from Common Weal in the past. All good.

  2. ali watson says:

    Hi weegingerdug I tried to purchase the book / maps of Scotland, but alas they do not ship to France. And I would rather spend my money with you guys than amazon, is there an alternative Scottish company I can buy it from? Thanks Have a braw day Kind regards Alastair

    • Hi Alastair. If you send us an email at we can talk to you there about shipping to you. We have sent orders to France and other international destinations but due to limitations on the website, we have to arrange each of these individually.

  3. […] Wee Ginger Dug An Atlas of Opportunity, putting Scotland at the centre of the map A review copy of a book was delivered when I was away visiting my husband in the USA […]

  4. Contrary says:

    Thank you, this looks fabulous! Just when I was looking for a good gift-idea for someone 🙂

  5. Shonagh Potter says:

    Sounds like a must buy book.
    I agree with you about the language element. It is time to have a better understanding of the richness of influences on the language/s of Scotland which includes the Norse .

  6. SiE says:

    I bought a copy at the launch in Glasgow. It is beautifully produced and illustrated with lots of great info [kudos to the designers and editors]. £30 may sound a bit hefty, but for me, it is worth every penny.

  7. Hugh Wallace says:

    I got my copy for Christmas! It looks fantastic.

  8. herveyB says:

    Absolutely beautiful looking book.
    Reading your review has me slavering for mire but U can’t help thinking something’s amiss.
    It appears obvious to me that a good e xtra selling point for a publication such as this would be the addition of a further chapter covering a map of the vast seas attributable to Scotland.
    To me that would complete this otherwise highly desirable publication.

  9. chicmac says:

    I’m a map geek and will drop a hint to my wife for my forthcoming birthday. Meanwhile here is an interesting map I found some years ago which shows the perspective the Low countries and Hanseatic League in regard to the relative size and importance of Scotland compared to England.

    • chicmac says:

      P.S. checking my notes. This map is from a Dutch book published by Adriaen Coenensz in 1578.
      He worked in the fishing trade and at the age of 63 decided to collect pictures he had acquired or drawn over the years into a picture book. Whether as a hobby or with earnings in mind it did become a commercial success as people were so interested to see the book he was able to charge a viewing fee to the many folk who wanted to see it.

      So the map is pretty contemporaneous with the one shown in the article above, but clearly not based on the same source since both differ in terms of accuracy. The one produced (or reproduced) by Coenensz is more accurate in regard to Scotland’s East Coast and the Regno di Scotia is more accurate on the West Coast.

  10. Az says:

    Just catching up with the blog here, Paul. You said that Scotland is shown from the perspective of London on the BBC weather map, and that may be figuratively true, but recently a globe appeared on Google maps, so I decided to see how to get that BBC weather map angle. You have to tilt the globe so much that the British Isles are almost drifting off north to get the right angle, and so in that sense it is from the persepctive of NAMIBIA… I kid you not!

    • chicmac says:

      Actually Az, I did an exact fit of the BBC weather map in the early naughties when Google Earth first became available as a downloadable stand alone program.

      Here is the result from my archives:

      The viewing point required was a few hundred miles above Northern France for that image.

      I note, of late, that such distortion has been used much less by the BBC. They must have sussed out it was counter productive.

      • They knew what they were doing, chicmac
        Scotland ‘too wee’.
        I wonder what the meteorologists who presented the forecasts thought of this distortion?
        Not enough, apparently.

        • chicmac says:

          I’m sure they must have objected because from a meteorological science stand point it is a nonsense.

          It may make sense to have a distorted perspective like that on something like a rail network map or a store chain map where the amount of structure to be shown is driven mainly by population density but weather systems don’t particularly care about how many people there are on the land.

          With a distortion like that it no longer makes sense to use isobar spacing to judge what local wind speed might be because they would appear to be closer together over Scotland than over England even if they were exactly the same.

          The main thing which can effect weather locally is topography and Scotland has much more topographical diversity than England so from a scientific stand point if a part of the UK were to be ‘bigged up’ it should be Scotland.

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