First Minister Apologises To Men Convicted Of Now-Abolished Sexual Offences

7 November 2017, 15:07

scottish parliament

The First Minister has "categorically, unequivocally and wholeheartedly" apologised to all men convicted of now-abolished sexual offences.

Nicola Sturgeon made the formal apology on behalf of the Scottish Government as new legislation was published to provide an automatic pardon to all those convicted under discriminatory laws.

Her statement at Holyrood was welcomed by all the political parties and equality campaigners.

She said: "Scotland has travelled so far in recent years in relation to LGBTI equality, but it still shocks us to recall that as recently as 1980, well within my lifetime, consenting sexual activity between men was still classed as criminal activity and the age of consent was only lowered to 16 in 2001, two years after this parliament came into being.

"Before then, hundreds of people in Scotland were liable to be convicted as criminals simply for loving another adult."

The new Historical Sexual Offences (Pardons and Disregards) (Scotland) Bill has both a "symbolic and practical" value, Ms Sturgeon told MSPs.

The legislation provides an automatic pardon to men convicted under historic discriminatory laws, and establishes a new procedure to allow the removal of such convictions from criminal records.

The First Minister said: "The bill we have published today rights a historic wrong, however ... I want to go further today and do something that legislation on its own cannot do.

"A pardon is of course the correct legal remedy to apply for the convictions we are talking about today, but the term pardon might still - to some people - imply that parliament sees them as having done something wrong.

"However, as all of us know, that is not the case here."

Ms Sturgeon continued: "The simple fact is that parliamentarians over many decades supported or at the very least accepted laws that we now recognise to have been completely unjust.

"So today as First Minister I categorically, unequivocally and wholeheartedly apologise for those laws and for the hurt and the harm that they caused to so many.

"Nothing that this parliament does can erase those injustices but I do hope that this apology, alongside our new legislation, can provide some comfort to those who endured those injustices."