politics

Thousands of convicted witches could be legally pardoned after almost 300 years


Natalie Don has launched consultation on a Member’s Bill to ‘right the historic wrong of witchcraft convictions’

The Witch’s Stone marks the spot where the last execution in Scotland for witchcraft took place

Thousands of convicted witches could be legally pardoned after almost 300 years.

Natalie Don, the SNP MSP for Renfrewshire North and West, has launched consultation on a Holyrood bill to “right the historic wrong of witchcraft convictions”.

Around 4,000 Scots were accused of witchcraft, with around 85% of those convicted being women.

While the bill would only apply north of the border, it will put pressure on Westminster to consider legal pardons.

In England, some 500 people are believed to have been executed for witchcraft, with the last trials held in Leicester in 1717.

It follows a posthumous apology from First Minister Nicola Sturgeon on International Women’s Day in March to those convicted, vilified or executed under the Witchcraft 1563 Act.







Scottish National Party’s MSP for Renfrewshire North and West Natalie Don
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Image:

PA)

While the convictions occurred centuries ago, it is hoped the pardons would send a message to other countries who still criminalise those accused of witchcraft that the punishment is “deplorable”.

Ms Don said: “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.”

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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