Men who were criminalised for historic sexual offences in Scotland which are now legal, will be pardoned as a new law comes into effect today.
Consensual sexual activity between men was illegal in Scotland until 1980 and many were convicted under laws now deemed deeply discriminatory.
The Historical Sexual Offences (Pardons & Disregards) (Scotland) Act will now offer automatic pardons for the convictions, although men still need to apply to have them removed from official records.
Welcoming the introduction of the Act into Scots law, Humza Yousaf, Justice Secretary said:
“There is no place for homophobia, ignorance and hatred in modern Scotland.”
“This landmark legislation provides an automatic pardon to men convicted of same-sex sexual activity, which is now entirely legal.”
“We have been working closely with Police Scotland and other partners to ensure the disregard scheme is clear and effective and has appropriate safeguards in place.”
“This legislation makes good on the commitments made by the First Minister, who gave an unqualified apology for the now outdated and discriminatory laws, and for the harm they caused to many.”
LGBT organisations have welcomed the Bill becoming law, with Stonewall Scotland and Equality Network both citing this as a significant step to repairing the damage done in previous generations.
Tim Hopkins of the Equality Network said:
“This is a historic day for Scotland. For centuries, sexual relationships between men were criminalised. Criminal law on same-sex and mixed-sex relationships remained seriously discriminatory until as recently as 2001. Today, all those discriminatory convictions are pardoned.”
“The purpose of this Act is to acknowledge the wrongfulness and discriminatory effect of past convictions for relationships between men. People living with those convictions on their record now have confirmation that they did nothing wrong – it was the law that was wrong – and the Government has apologised for that wrong.”
When the pardons bill was first introduced to the Scottish Parliament in November 2017, the First Minister Nicola Sturgeon gave a full apology to men who were discriminated against, saying:
“Today, categorically and wholeheartedly, as First Minister I apologise for those laws and for the hurt and the harm that they caused.”
The pardons bill is also known as Scotland’s ‘Turing law’ after the World War II codebreaker, Alan Turing who was convicted of gross indecency with another man and took his own life in 1954. He was posthumously pardoned for his crimes in 2013.
Those men wishing to apply for a pardon or disregard, or check their eligibility, can apply here.