By Kenneth Maclean 

It is a brave individual who attempts to illustrate the main economic regions of Scotland in a single black and white map. In this instance it was the work of Dr Catherine Snodgrass, Lecturer in geography at Edinburgh University from 1936 to 1956, published in the Scottish Geographical Magazine, Vol. 59, pp. 15-18, 1943. Basic to her article, “Map of Economic Regions of Scotland,” is the close integration of both map and text: the ten numbered symbols in the key forming the basis for ordering the detailed script. The SGM map was a reduction and simplification of a coloured map at ten miles to one inch scale, designed as an interim base map for planning an improved post-war Scotland.

Numbers 1 – 7 cover the main agricultural regions. Underlying her natural and economic divisions is Scotland’s Highland- Lowland divide. Number 1 in the key embraces (i) “the Central and N.W. Highlands,” -mainly above 1500 feet, 90% rough grazing and improved land and crofting shown by black shading; (ii) “the Southern Uplands,” generally less than 2000’ with rounded, flat-topped hills, sheep farming, cattle rearing and dairying in valleys, tweed and hosiery manufacturing in the upper Tweed valley; and “the isolated hill masses of the lowlands.”

The remaining Numbers 2-7 show lowland areas below 1000 feet with moderate slopes, subdivided into broad agricultural types. Number 2 is “The Far North Cattle and Sheep-Rearing Region” of Caithness and Orkney; Number 3 is “The North-East Cattle-Rearing and Beef Producing Region,” with two sub-regions-the Moray Firth Coast lands and Aberdeen’s rural fringe. Similarly sub-divided is Number 4- “East Coast Mixed Farming Region with Concentration on Crop Production in Lower Coastal Districts,” with intensively cropped areas at A, and stock rearing at B. Number 5 is the “Tweed Valley Sheep Rearing and Mutton Producing Region” with the intensively cropped Merse area highlighted by the closely spaced vertical stripes. Finally, in the wetter areas of the west, Number 6 is “The Western and Central Dairying Region,” and Number 7, “The South-Western Sheep and Cattle Rearing Region with dairying on the Better land.”  

Finally, the last three symbols depict industry and fishing. Number 8, shows coal-mining regions (i.e., where coal mining occurs rather than coalfields per se); Number 9, industrial areas - A the main cities, and B the smaller towns, and Number 10, fishing settlements. Dr Snodgrass noted that the industrial areas were the most challenging feature to illustrate, especially for settlements of less than 17,000 inhabitants for which the Census did not record occupational statistics.

Dr Snodgrass produced a map for which she was well qualified. Her long interest in Scottish farming reflected her upbringing on a farm at Cockpen, Midlothian, and her PhD thesis on the influence of physical environment on agricultural practice in Scotland. As suggested by her obituarist, D.R. Macgregor, she initiated agriculture as a key interest at the Edinburgh department, later pursued by Professor Terry Coppock. Further interests included Scotland’s changing population and women’s employment; the work of the first Land Use Survey of Britain; editing and contributing to the Third Statistical Account of East Lothian, acclaimed as her “most notable” publication’; and in her later years serving as editor of SGM from 1965-67. Increasingly, especially after her early retirement in 1956, she was involved with the work of the Scottish National Party. As suggested by Professor C.W.J. Withers, she was an ‘undeservedly neglected’ figure.