In 1981, consensual homosexual acts between men over 21 in Scotland were decriminalised. It wasn’t until 2001 that the age of consent for men was lowered to 16.
Today, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has apologised, on behalf of the Scottish Government, to gay men convicted of sexual offences under historical laws.
The Historical Sexual Offences (Pardons and Disregards) Bill will give an automatic pardon to those convicted prior to 2001 under discriminatory laws.
It was Alan Turing, the creator of modern computing, who we often think of as an example of someone who suffered for his sexuality. Now, in England and Wales the ‘Alan Turing law’ has provided posthumous pardons to those convicted. The Scottish legislation differs from this law, additionally applying also to those still living.
However, as in England and Wales, anyone with a legal conviction must now apply for a formal ‘disregard’ to prevent its appearance on background checks. The apology has only been applied to men, as gay and bisexual women were never legally criminalised.
Scotland is arguably a world leader when it comes to LGBT rights and has had LGBT political leaders with little fanfare – but progress is still to be made.
During the summer, when Nicola Sturgeon became the first serving First Minister to speak at Glasgow Pride, she told the crowd: “Love is love, wherever you are and whoever you are.”
Today’s apology helps to affirm that your son, daughter, sibling, friend or colleague, is just like everybody else and is accepted for being themselves.