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Scottish Boundary Commission: We don't need no stinkin' PDFs

Scots publish constituency maps in open format to avoid data drama

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The Boundary Commission for Scotland (BCS) has said it will publish shapefiles of its initial proposals for constituencies after the Boundary Commission for England (BCE) was criticised for not doing so.

The BCS said it had "watched with interest" the response to the BCE's publication of its initial proposals for constituencies and would subsequently publish the shapefiles – an interoperable data format for geographic information – when the consultation begins on 13 October.

The format, developed and regulated by software firm Esri, makes it possible to plot different types of data onto a vector map.

The BCS will also provide an interactive map that will allow constituents to search by postcode and local authority and to zoom in and out.

Last week the BCE attracted criticism for publishing more than 500 maps in the less-flexible PDF format as part of its public consultation on new constituency boundaries. It defended its decision, saying the maps provided "an appropriate level of detail".

Hugh Buchanan, secretary for the Scottish body, explained that it was very important that the Scottish public engage in the consultation.

Buchanan told GGC: "We are keen to ensure that we provide information on the initial proposals in a form which encourages informed comment on them, and enables constructive discussion and alternative suggestions.

"As well as the shapefiles and map, we will also produce hard copy documents explaining our initial proposals, as has been the case in previous review, since we recognise that hard copy publication retains an important role in making such information available."

The shapefiles will be produced in-house and the interactive map by Informed Solutions, a spatial information and systems consultancy.

The BCS also plans to produce spreadsheets showing the relationships between constituency and ward electorates. ®

This article was originally published at Guardian Government Computing.

Guardian Government Computing is a business division of Guardian Professional, and covers the latest news and analysis of public sector technology. For updates on public sector IT, join the Government Computing Network here.

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