Convicted ‘witches’ could be pardoned nearly 300 years later in Scotland

Thousands of people convicted of witchcraft could be pardoned 300 years in Scotland.

Thousands of people convicted of witchcraft, largelywomen, could be pardoned posthumously -after death- in Scotland if a new bill becomes law.

Scotland killed 5 x more people

Between 1563 and 1736, the Witchcraft Act made practising witchcraft punishable by death. It resulted in five 'great Scottish witch hunts' and a series of nationwide trials.

It's predicted that approximately 4,000 Scots were accused of the crime, and approximately 85% of those convicted were women. Of those 4,000, around 2,500 were convicted and executed, as reported by Sky News.

According to Witches of Scotland, the country killed five times more people accused of being witches than anywhere else in Europe, as reported by ABC News. Campaigners have been seeking a legal pardon for these people for approximately 200 years.

Convicted ‘witches’ could be pardoned posthumously in Scotland Smith Collection/Gado / Getty Images

A 'message' to countries where witchcraft is still prosecuted

On International Women’s Day in March 2022, Scotland’s most senior politician, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, issued a formal apology to those vilified under the Witchcraft Act. Sturgeon said, as reported by The Washington Post:

It was injustice on a colossal scale, driven at least in part by misogyny. They were accused and killed because they were poor, different, vulnerable or in many cases just because they were women.

Now, a bill has been proposed by Natalie Don from the Scottish National Party in order to 'right the historic wrong of witchcraft accusations, arrests, and executions.' Also, to legally pardon those convicted nearly 300 years ago and make sure they are 'recognized as victims of a miscarriage of justice and are no longer recorded in history as criminals.'

Don said on Thursday 23 June in a video:

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:

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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