Glaciated passive margins display dramatic fjord coasts, but also commonly retain plateau fragments inland. It has been proposed recently that such elevated, low-relief surfaces on the Norwegian margin are products of highly efficient and extensive glacial and periglacial erosion (the glacial buzzsaw) operating at equilibrium line altitudes (ELAs). We demonstrate here that glacial erosion has acted instead to dissect plateaus in western Norway. Low-relief surfaces are not generally spatially associated with cirques, and do not correlate regionally with modern and Last Glacial Maximum ELAs. Glacier dynamics require instead that glacial erosion is selective, with low-relief surfaces representing islands of limited Pleistocene erosion. Deep glacial erosion of the coast and inner shelf has provided huge volumes of sediment (70,000 km3), largely resolving apparent mismatches (65–100,000 km3) between fjord and valley volumes and Pliocene–Pleistocene sediment wedges offshore. Nonetheless, as Pleistocene glacial valleys and cirques are cut into preexisting mountain relief, tectonics rather than isostatic compensation for glacial erosion have been the main driver for late Cenozoic uplift on the Norwegian passive margin.