MICHAEL Gove’s Levelling Up department has been criticised after erasing Shetland from the UK map in its new digital advert series.

The UK Government department, which is tasked with supporting “communities across the UK to thrive” and also holds responsibility for the Union, shows an outline of the UK in the campaign – but it cuts off at Orkney.

The Scottish Government previously brought in a new law banning public bodies in the country from failing to display the islands “in a manner that accurately and proportionately represents their geographical location in relation to the rest of Scotland”.

This legislation, which came into force in 2018, stopped public organisations in Scotland from the practice of putting Shetland in a box on maps and moving it closer to the mainland, something which was said to “irk” residents.

However in the new UK Government adverts, Shetland isn’t even in a box and floating near the Aberdeenshire coast – it is omitted altogether.

The National:

When clicked, the digital adverts from the department state that success is “not being shared across the whole of the United Kingdom”, and seek views from members of the public on how to best level up “every single city, town and village” as part of a new four-week consultation.

Emma Roddick (below), an SNP MSP for the Highlands and Islands region, was not surprised by the Tory government’s failure to include Shetland in its depiction of the UK.

“Despite the UK Government's claims that they want to support coastal and deprived communities, they have completely ignored the Highlands and Islands in their ‘Levelling Up’ scheme, which seems to be more about directing money into Tory marginals,” she told The National.

The National:

“It's no surprise they have missed us off the map, too.

“I look forward to the day that we can make our own spending decisions based on the right priorities, and when none of Scotland is included on a map of the UK.”

Alistair Carmichael, who has been the LibDem MP for Shetland and Orkney for more than 20 years, also criticised the Government's ad.

"Having bankrolled the rest of the country for years with our oil and gas Shetland deserves better than this," he said. 

"Many communities feel left out by this government but only one actually has been. If they are serious about creating a Global Britain then they may need to buy a new globe and learn where the boundaries of Britain actually are.

"Levelling Up that doesn’t actually reach the top of the country tells you all you need to know about this government."

The National:

The Scottish Government commented: “The Scottish Government supported legislation for all maps of Scotland to display the Shetland Islands in a way that accurately represents their geographical location in relation to the rest of the country. This applies to the Scottish Government, councils and other Scottish public authorities.”

A spokesperson for the Levelling Up department said: “We are committed to Levelling Up the whole of the United Kingdom, including the Shetland Islands, and we are investing £1.7 billion in projects across Scotland.

“The UK Government’s Levelling Up logo and all of our campaign assets include the Shetland Islands.”

The National was told a technical issue meant the map may appear compressed on certain adverts, and appear to cut off Shetland. The issue is said to be being addressed.

It comes after the Levelling Up Secretary spoke at Holyrood’s Constitutional Committee last month after repeatedly snubbing the meeting.

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During the session, SNP MSP Michelle Thomson accused the minister of failing to consult with the Scottish Government over how allocation of the Levelling Up Fund would affect Scotland.

Thomson argued such as Shetland, Orkney and the Highlands should have been given more priority because of their poor transport links.

A failure to account for the unique challenges such areas face because of their remoteness meant they were “placed in the category least likely to benefit from the fund – alongside areas such as the City of London”. 

She asked Gove “how on Earth” that had happened, describing it as a “ridiculous outcome”.

Green MSP Ross Greer urged Gove to guarantee the Highlands and Islands would see “no detriment” due to the allocation of the replacement of EU funds.

"This is yet another example of Scotland being worse off as a result of a Brexit process we voted overwhelmingly against,” he told the Tory minister.

Later, a UK Government spokesperson said: "The first round of the Levelling Up Fund delivered £172million to Scotland, including £20m to Highland Council.

"This investment was warmly welcomed by local communities and is making a transformative difference.

“We regularly engage with the Scottish Government on a range of issues and we are determined to work closely with them as partners as we level up all parts of the UK.”