"The arms that you wield now are not such as your forefathers wielded; but they are infinitely more effective, and infinitely more irresistable" ~ Cymru Fydd leaflet, 1890

Saturday 22 June 2013

Britain is not a country

I don't whether it's just lazy journalism, ignorance or deliberate propaganda but the media constantly uses the words Britain, UK and 'this country' interchangably. This is not only factually incorrect but when it is said enough times people start to think that it's true. It's used in everyday conversation which makes things even more confusing when the media handles things that are not devolved. We have to acknowledge that most people are politically ignorant due to their only source of information being lazy, ignorant or deliberately bad journalism.

So I created this little graphic to easily show the difference between the UK, Britain and "this country". Note that "this country" should only be used when referring to the country you are actually in. So whichever one of these countries you are in. Just imagine the words "this country" under it's name.
An easy to follow representation of the UK. Share via twitter | facebook
Here we have the three seperate countries of Wales, England and Scotland. They are all part of the island known as Great Britain, Great Britain is nothing more than a rock in the middle of the sea. N Ireland is not part of Great Britain because it is not on this rock, it is one of the two countries that make up the island of Ireland, another rock in the middle of the sea. Northern Ireland is part of the sovereign state known as the United Kingdom. Or to give it it's full name, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and N Ireland.

It's quite simple isn't it? So why do the media constantly get it wrong?

When I looked at the picture, it may have been correct and an easy way to show how it all works but it's not very accurate. So I started to think of how I could add some scale to show how everything relates to each other. In this instance I want to use population, I could use area, MPs, GDP and maybe at a later date I will. But for now I just want to make a simple graphic that depicts the four nations that make up the UK with some kind of scale.

I tried a few things but eventually I settled with pixels as a means of showing the countries. So I took the UK population figure of 63 million and drew a 251 x 251 pixel square. This square has 63,001 pixels. Meaning one pixel would represent 1000 people. (From here on in I will use px instead of pixels).
Welcome to the UK (Scale 1px = 1000 people)
Next we'll add England as it's the most populace country in the UK. England has a population of 53,000,000. Which will be represented by a 230 x 230 px square. That works out as 52,900 px (close enough).
England and the rest of the UK (yellow)
Already we are seeing the sheer scale of difference between England and it's huge population and the rest of the UK combined. This graphic alone is enough to make even the most ardant federalist weep. Next we'll add in Scotland, the second most populace country with 5,500,000 people.
England, Scotland and the rest of the UK (yellow)
Scotland is represented here with a 251 x 22 px rectangle. That gives us more or less the 5,500 px we need. Now we'll add in a 21 x 143 (3003 px) rectangle as the 3,000,000 (ish) people in the fatherland of Cymru (in an ever so patriotic shade of red). And since that will leave a space the exact size of N Ireland (1806 px) and it's 1,800,000 people we might as well add that now. As an added bonus I'm adding in Cornwall as it's always left out of these things. Cornwall is in black and is represented by a 24 x 23 rectangle to give it the 552 px needed to represent it's 55,000 population. Of course Cornwall is also included within the borders of the English square.
The UK population, scale 1px : 1000 people
And for the sheer hell of it, let's add London in too. Despite it being less than half the size of Cornwall it's population of 8,100,000 is almost as much as Wales and Scotland combined. If it were independent it would be the 96th most populated country (presently occupied by Switzerland). 8.1 million translates perfectly as a 90 x 90 (8,100px) square.
Same as before, except with London. Scale 1px : 1000 population
So here we have the finished picture. If the UK was represented by a 251 x 251 pixel square, with a scale of 1 px to 1000 people then it would look like this. Completely skewed in every way towards England and the tiny yet densely populated London.
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Before posting I had one final idea for a graphic. In order to show the scale of imbalance of the UK, why not put the UK on a balance scale?
The balance of the UK (Scale 1 px = 1000 people). Share via twitter | facebook
Share the imbalance via twitter | facebook.


  1. And I thought Mondrian was only an artist. I never realized he was depicting the demographic complexities of the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg.

    1. I did think of that painting when I made it, perhaps it did have a hidden meaning?

  2. "Examples of entities that are not countries include: Hong Kong, Bermuda, Greenland, Puerto Rico, and most notably the constituent parts of the United Kingdom. (Northern Ireland, Wales, Scotland, and England are not countries.)"
    Source: http://geography.about.com/cs/politicalgeog/a/statenation.htm

    1. If you had read your own link you'd notice it was from October 2011. Wales has been officially recognised as a country by the ISO since December 2011.

      You can read the link here.

    2. You are referring to an NGO that produces codings.
      If you look up Europe ISO 3166-1 you will note that Wales, Scotland and England are collectively coded as Great Britain (GB). GB is officially assigned as a country with its own legal identity.

    3. The entry for GB does not correspond with Great Britain, it corresponds with the UK. Great Britain is also included but only "for completeness".

    4. So, as far as the ISO is concerned, GB = UK.

      I tend to regard a country as having its own (amongst other things)
      Head of State
      Tax raising powers
      Ability to form its own Treaties with other countries
      Right to defend itself and declare war if necessary.

    5. GB as in the letters G and B. That is all. And what you regard is of no consequence.

    6. What about - A seat at the United Nations?

    7. Seats are sovereign states, the term "member states" is a bit of a clue. Did you miss the part about the UK being a sovereign state? I think you must have. I suggest you start again from the top, read slowly this time so that you don't miss anything.

    8. So long as you're happy with written proof of your assertion coming from an organisation that adds initials to things.
      I note that you have no regard for those who use a more robust definition of the term 'country' so I'll leave you to create coloured squares and Venn diagrams for all long as you wish.
      I'm sure that your regular readers await your take on the Set of All Sets with interest.

    9. Do you mean the organisation that the majority of states across the world are a member of and financially support?

      I think you do. I think that's exactly what you mean. As for a more robust definition, the only alternatives you've offered are yourself and the UN. The UN has member states, sovereign states at that. Thanks for stopping by but these exchanges are very tedious.