Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon Formally Apologizes to People Executed as Witches

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon issued on March 8 a formal apology to people — mostly women — persecuted as witches between the 16th and 18th centuries.

“On International Women’s Day, as First Minister on behalf of the Scottish Government, I am choosing to acknowledge that egregious historic injustice and extend a formal, posthumous apology to all those accused, convicted, vilified, or executed under the Witchcraft Act 1563,” Sturgeon told the Scottish Parliament.

“At a time when women were not even allowed to speak as witnesses in a court room, they were accused and killed because they were poor, different, vulnerable, or in many cases just because they were women,” Sturgeon further said.

Sturgeon said that the while the Witchcraft Act “may have been consigned to history a long time ago, the deep misogyny that motivated it has not.”

“Today it expresses itself, not in claims of witchcraft, but in everyday harassment, online rape threats and sexual violence. All of it intensified by an increasingly polarized and toxic public discourse, and amplified each and every day by social media,” Sturgeon said.

The move came in response to a petition demanding a pardon for over 4,000 people in Scotland who were accused and often executed of witchcraft.

According to the Survey of Scottish Witchcraft, a comprehensive database of known prosecutions, at least 2,500 people were killed between the first execution in 1479 and the last in 1727.

While witch hunts occurred across Europe and in colonial America, Scotland’s execution rate was five times the European average, according to academics.

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