A 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 (lateralnorth.com) for Common Weal, the atlas is of course printed in Scotland, by Exactaprint in Glasgow.
Although 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.
The 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.
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.
Chapter 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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 email@example.com.