Scottish 'witches' in line for apology hundreds of years after being burned at the stake

A monument to a Scottish 'witch' in Dunning, Scotland.
A monument to a Scottish 'witch' in Dunning, Scotland. Photo credit: Getty Images

Thousands of Scottish 'witches' executed for their supposed crimes might soon get formal apologies and pardons. 

Nearly 4000 Scots were convicted of witchcraft between 1563 and 1736 when it was against the law to be a witch, the Guardian reports. In that time there were five major witch hunts, women forced to confess under torture before being strangled and burned at the stake. 

Despite the Witchcraft's repeal in 1736, the convictions have remained on the books - but that could soon change. A Member's Bill in the Scottish parliament to pardon the country's convicted witches has won the support of the ruling First Minister Nicola Sturgeon's administration, the Sunday Times reported

"Per capita, during the period between the 16th and 18th century, we executed five times as many people as elsewhere in Europe, the vast majority of them women," Witches of Scotland campaigner Claire Mitchell told the paper. 

"To put that into perspective, in Salem 300 people were accused and 19 people were executed. We absolutely excelled at finding women to burn in Scotland. Those executed weren't guilty, so they should be acquitted."

Salem's so-called witches were pardoned in 2001. 

Mitchell's campaign started in 2020 on International Women's Day. The United Nations Human Rights Council in July passed a resolution condemning literal witch hunts, saying they most commonly occur in India, Nigeria, South Africa and Zimbabwe.

"This injustice needs to be put right and these people who were criminalised, mostly women, should be pardoned," said Natalie Don, the MP behind the Bill.

"By righting this wrong we will most certainly make an impact in challenging gendered and patriarchal attitudes which still exist in society today."