Scotland mulls pardoning thousands convicted of witchcraft

Associated Press

London – A Scottish lawmaker on Thursday launched a bid to posthumously pardon thousands of people, mostly women, who were convicted of witchcraft centuries ago.

Natalie Don, of the Scottish National Party, launched consultation on a bill to “right the historic wrong of witchcraft convictions.” She said she hoped the move would send a message to other countries that still criminalize those accused of witchcraft that “Scotland recognizes what happened to these people as a deplorable miscarriage of justice.”

Natalie Don MSP SNP, attends the Scottish Parliament on May 12, 2021 in Edinburgh, Scotland.

Don’s proposed member’s bill follows a formal apology from Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon on International Women’s Day in March to those convicted, vilified or executed under the 1563 Witchcraft Act.

An estimated 4,000 Scots were accused of witchcraft under the law up until 1736.

Of the 4,000, about 2,500 were executed – and Scotland killed five times as many people accused as witches than anywhere else in Europe, according to Witches of Scotland, a campaign group that has been lobbying officials to bring posthumous justice to those accused.

In her speech, Sturgeon said the victims were “accused and killed because they were poor, different, vulnerable or in many cases just because they were women.” The injustice was “driven at least in part by misogyny.”

Don said her move was not just about the past, and that she wanted to address “gendered and patriarchal attitudes” and discrimination in modern-day Scotland.

“It is my view that in order to build a fairer, more equal and forward-thinking Scotland, we must address the historic injustices of our past,” Don said.