First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has apologised to the gay and bisexual men convicted of now-abolished sexual offences on behalf of the Scottish government.
“Those laws criminalised the act of loving another adult,” Sturgeon told the Scottish Parliament on Tuesday.
“They deterred people from being honest about their identity to family, friends, neighbours and colleagues; and by sending a message from parliament that homosexuality was wrong, they encouraged rather than deterred homophobia and hate.”
She continued: “Today as first minister I categorically, unequivocally and wholeheartedly apologise for those laws and for the hurt and the harm that they caused to so many.
“Nothing that this parliament does can erase those injustices, but I do hope this apology, alongside our new legislation, can provide some comfort to those who endured those injustices,” said Sturgeon.
Two men in the public gallery, presumably victims of the unjust laws, were seen weeping during the speech.
The apology coincided with the introduction of legislation to provide gay men convicted under historical discriminatory laws in Scotland with an automatic pardon.
The Historical Sexual Offences (Pardons and Disregards) Bill will also enable men to apply to have convictions for same-sex sexual activity that is now legal removed from central criminal conviction records.
Same-sex sexual activity was legalised in 1981 in Scotland and the age of consent was made equal to that for opposite-sex activity in 2001.
“Scotland is an open and tolerant society, committed to respecting, protecting and implementing human rights and demonstrating equality, dignity and respect in everything we do,” commented Cabinet Secretary for Justice Michael Matheson
“These discriminatory laws, although abolished, continue to have implications for people to this day and it is only right that we address this historic wrong, which criminalised people simply because of who they loved,” he said.
Tim Hopkins, Director of the Equality Network, welcomed the bill and said that it “will be of direct importance to hundreds of people with past criminal convictions for the kinds of relationships that were perfectly legal for their heterosexual friends.”
Hopkins added: “More widely, it is a clear statement that Scotland considers the discrimination of the past to be wrong and unacceptable, and now understands LGBTI people to be equal citizens who deserve equal respect.”
Other countries, including England and Wales, Germany and New Zealand have recently moved to clear the criminal records of men who were convicted of consensual gay sex in the past.