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Nicola Sturgeon pardons history’s gay men brutalised by the state

The Equality Network, the Scottish LGBTI equality charity, today welcomed the publication of the Scottish Government’s Historical Sexual Offences (Pardons and Disregards) (Scotland) Bill

The bill provides a pardon for people who were convicted of the historical discriminatory “homosexual offences” between men, which are no longer crimes. It also provides a way for people with such convictions to have them removed from their criminal records (a “disregard”) so that they do not appear on criminal record checks for jobs and volunteer posts.

The First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, made a statement of apology for these convictions in the Scottish Parliament this afternoon.

Director of the Equality Network Tim Hopkins said: “The bill and the First Minister’s apology are a hugely important statement that the Scottish Government acknowledges and regrets the discrimination of the past, and that Scotland is now committed to LGBTI equality.

“Of course nothing that is done now can repair the damage caused by past discrimination, but we welcome that the bill spells out that these convictions were wrong and discriminatory, and reinforces that, by granting an automatic pardon to all those convicted.”

Following consultation with LGBTI organisations in Scotland, the Bill avoids two significant flaws with similar legislation in the rest of the UK.

Firstly, the Scottish bill provides an automatic pardon to all people who were convicted in Scotland under these discriminatory offences, posthumously for those who have died, and to those who are still living. In contrast, the legislation for the rest of the UK only provides a pardon to living people if they specifically apply for it. As a result an estimated 98% of those living with these convictions in the rest of the UK have not received the pardon.

Secondly, the Scottish Bill covers all the offences that were in the past used in this discriminatory way, including where men were convicted for “importuning” – simply for chatting up other men, where the legislation in the rest of the UK does not.

 

 

“It has taken the Scottish Government a little longer to develop the legislation, but that means there has been time to consult, and to learn from the debate about the way this operates in the rest of the UK. As a result, we have a significantly better bill,” continued Tim Hopkins.

The Equality Network estimates that the total number of historical discriminatory convictions in Scotland runs into the thousands, and that there are hundreds of men alive today with such convictions on their records.

Until 1981, all sexual activity between men was a criminal offence in Scotland. Sex between women was never criminalised in this way in Scotland, and the same rules applied to it as applied for sex between a man and a woman.

MSP Kezia Dugdale, addressing the Scottish parliament, urged the government to acknowledge LBT women who – although no women were ever convicted – were similarly ostracised and discriminated against.

 

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