1700s witches could be pardoned under proposed Scottish legislation

Miss Don hopes Scottish Parliament will right "the historic wrong of ‘witchcraft’ accusations, arrests and executions." Credit: PA

A Scottish MSP wants thousands of witches to be pardoned nearly 300 years on.

Having launched a new consultation into witchcraft convictions, MSP for Renfrewshire North and West Natalie Don wants legal pardons for those who were wrongly punished.

The move follows an apology made by Scotland's first minister on International Women's Day.

Miss Sturgeon apologised to all those who had been convicted, vilified or executed under the Witchcraft 1563 Act.

Still legally punishable till 1736, estimates suggest around 2,500 Scots were convicted of witchcraft, with around 85% of those being women.

Campaigners have been trying to secure a legal pardon for around 200 years.

It is hoped the pardons would send a message to other countries who still criminalise those accused of witchcraft.

Natalie Don. Credit: PA

Ms Don said: “The recent formal apology from the first minister on International Women’s Day was welcomed by campaigners in Scotland and recognised around the world as a statement of intent.

“It was a powerful and incredibly important first step in righting the historic wrong of ‘witchcraft’ accusations, arrests and executions.

“My Member’s Bill will hopefully be the next step towards that and, if passed, it will make clear that the people convicted of witchcraft all those years ago should never have faced the injustice of being labelled as criminals.

“By issuing official pardons for all those convicted of witchcraft, we will be sending a strong message to the wide world – some parts of which, women still face prosecution for being accused of witchcraft – that Scotland recognises what happened to these people as a deplorable miscarriage of justice.

“It is also about influencing the gendered and patriarchal attitudes which, unfortunately, still exists in our society today – and making it clear that Scotland does not tolerate discrimination in any way.”

A spokesperson from the Witches of Scotland campaign group said: “We are absolutely delighted to see Natalie Don’s Bill reach this stage and are hopeful that this will bring about some posthumous justice to the thousands of people who were executed by the state during the witch hunts.

“This will also signal to other countries around the world where accusations of witchcraft are a very real and current issue that this is not acceptable in the modern day.”

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