Did the BBC weather map play a part in weakening the case for Scottish independence in 2014?

You’ll no doubt have seen the new BBC weather map which seems to restore Scotland to a more accurate representation of its size relative to England. The previous version, introduced in 2005, represented the UK from a perspective originating in the south and, consequently made Scotland seem smaller than it is, in relation to England. Here are the two views:



Does making a country seeking independence look smaller and using this image many times a day on the weather reports, subconsciously affect citizens’ confidence in its ability to survive in the world. I did find it annoying but tended to concentrate my fire on other forms of propaganda. From a piece in iNews, yesterday, the risk of being ridiculed if your answer was ‘yes’, was reported:

‘In 2016, the then SNP MP Paul Monaghan accused he corporation of making Scotland “literally appear less significant” through its weather coverage.’

‘However, Scottish Conservative deputy leader Jackson Carlaw described their claims as “risible” and “the worst form of nationalist paranoia”.’


There is, however, historical evidence on the use of scale and perspective in maps to deliberately propagandize and affect thinking on political issues. First have a look at these two different projections of the world:



Look at how the first, Mercator Projection, and the second, Peters Projection, represent the sizes of the dominant imperial powers of Northern Europe and America and the Southern hemisphere areas they have dominated historically. The Peters projection is a more accurate measure of actual area. Peters attacked the Mercator Projection as ethnocentric and map projection has been used to create cartographic propaganda by making small areas bigger and large areas smaller according to one researcher:

Monmonier, Mark (1996). How to Lie with Maps. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press. ISBN 9780226534213

In an inversion of the Scottish example, projection to make a country look bigger, suggest a threat and induce fear has been used:

‘Cartographic propaganda during the Cold War often appealed to the fear of the masses. During the Cold War period, maps of “us” versus “them” were drawn to emphasize the threat represented by the USSR and its allies. R.M. Chapin, Jr. created the map, “Europe From Moscow,” in 1952. The map was drawn from a different perspective, from Moscow looking onward toward Europe which made it easy for the map reader to imagine (red) armies sweeping across Western Europe.


Returning to the Mercator Projection, it has been argued that it served to strengthen and perhaps even justify exploitation of the southern hemisphere:

‘This cartographic anomaly has the following effect on how we perceive the world- developing countries, typically located in the southern hemisphere, are seen as being smaller than the so-called Western world (Europe, the United States, and Canada). This diminishes not only their size, but their importance in an increasingly developing and global world. During the height of European colonialism and Western empire building (some may argue this is still the case in different ways) this map projection served the dominant powers’ purposes. Most people who look at a map don’t automatically assume that it is biased or incorrect, and rarely are maps intentionally created to deceive; however, maintaining awareness of your own perceptions of the world is very important.’


Now, I’m certainly not going to argue that the weather map making Scotland look wee played a major part in undermining the Yes campaign. There were many more damaging forms of propaganda on show in the months prior to the vote. However, I think I’d reject the argument that it had no part to play in subconsciously affecting the thinking of many Scots as they considered the question I often heard:

‘Is Scotland not too wee to be independent?’



14 thoughts on “Did the BBC weather map play a part in weakening the case for Scottish independence in 2014?

  1. William Henderson February 7, 2018 / 1:07 pm

    The question may be asked, “Would a map deliberately designed to make England seem more insignificant have been displayed daily for 13 years on BBC Television”?

    To my mind, the “funny” map was an integral part of the on-going propaganda project.

    Liked by 4 people

  2. Graemeo Rab February 7, 2018 / 1:40 pm

    In a previous Job I used to have an Upside down Europe map on my PC desktop. This could generate many an interesting chat with Yes types regards Scotland and its ease of trade routes with our Scandinavian and Baltic Neighbours. Those of a No persuasion of course did not much like it as it probably turned their world upside down. So yes,I believe that even minimally maps have some effect.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. ayerightradio February 7, 2018 / 3:01 pm

    Is it just me but does the island of Britain not look more alert and up for it in the new version? For no

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Alan Gordon February 7, 2018 / 8:08 pm

    If you all are correct then they (westminster) may well have washed their hands of us, I’m not so optimistic. I see it as putting the clock back “you’ve had your chance, and don’t be even thinking of another referendum”. It’s to show off their asset, bolstering their deflated pride, backing up the delusion of an empire and being in control. Maybe I’m seeing Westminster in too good a light.
    Ach I’m off to pour a dram.

    Liked by 3 people

  5. Alasdair Macdonald February 7, 2018 / 8:54 pm

    Maps have for a long time been used for propaganda purposes. I suspect that all of us who went to primary school during the 1950s sat in classrooms, which had a huge Mercator projection map of the world in a prominent position above the blackboard, and we had our attention directed to all the pink bits which was the British Empire (sic) on which ‘the sun never set’. Of course, the ‘Commonwealth’ superseded ‘Empire’ in 1949, but, of course it took a fair number of years before the concept of ‘Empire’ tailed off. And, of course, we were taught to sing ‘Rule Britannia’ and even “God Save the King/Queen”, usually including the verse calling on God to ‘crush rebellious Scots’.

    The ‘British’ despite the bumbling Colonel Blimp image which has frequently been used have always been pretty good at propaganda and the BBC has always been one of the main vectors. It is pretty sophisticated and knows well the subliminal effects of many small things repeated continuously. So, I suspect the ‘wee’ Scotland map fits into that. Now that Scotland is restored to its proper size vis-a-vis England on the weather map, I suspect that it is to show how BIG Britain/England is now that Brexit is on its way. Britain/England is a BIG place compared to pokey Belgium and ‘Holland’ (let’s not even give it its proper name!) and the pokey bit of France that appears. Germany is, of course seldom shown, unless they pull back to show a bit of unnamed territory attached to very small Denmark. The Mull of Kintyre will gradually be inverted so that it looks like a tumescent phallus.

    Liked by 3 people

  6. Donald McGregor February 7, 2018 / 11:52 pm

    I’m kind of with Alan Gordon above – the new ‘corrected’ map is a part of the pre-Brexit bigging up of the great uk ok island of shiny opportunity.

    As for evil separation for the jocks? Well, have you SEEN how much of our country they want to steal? We can’t let them away with that.

    Just my conspiracy theory no doubt, but I can hear it now in my pointy head. Hah.

    Liked by 2 people

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