Words: Steve Brown
Gay and bisexual men convicted under discriminatory laws which have been abolished in Scotland will be able to receive an automatic pardon from today (October 15).
Same-sex activity between men was illegal in Scotland until the laws banning homosexual relations were repealed in 1980 but those convicted of offences before that year were retained on official records.
Now, the BBC report that gay and bisexual men convicted under the discriminatory laws can apply to have the convictions removed under the Historical Sexual Offences (Pardons and Disregards) (Scotland) Act.
The legislation will not apply to behaviour that is still illegal today including rape or sex with a minor.
Before 1980, gay and bisexual men could be prosecuted for offences including consensual sexual activity in private, kissing another man in a public place, or just chatting up another man in a public place.
The director of the Equality Network, Tim Hopkins said: “Centuries ago, the death penalty applied in Scotland to sexual relationships between men.
“More recently, during the 20th Century, hundreds of men in Scotland were sent to prison for consensual adult relationships – and we know of men who as recently as the 1990s were convicted of a criminal offence and fined, for no more than kissing another man in public.
“Today’s pardon applies to all those cases. Nothing can undo the harm of centuries of homophobic discrimination, but at least the state now acknowledges that it was the law that was wrong, and the people convicted under it did nothing wrong.”
Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf added: “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.”
Sophie Bridger, campaigns, policy and research manager for Stonewall Scotland, said: “Along with the hurt and damage that came with being prosecuted for who they loved, some people have been carrying a criminal record for something which should never have been illegal.
“They will now finally have the chance to delete these former offences from their criminal record.
“We hope this will bring comfort and closure to those affected and draw a line once and for all under this dark piece of Scotland’s history.”