Scottish Leader Formally Apologizes to Executed 'Witches'

Nicola Sturgeon calls centuries of persecution 'injustice on a colossal scale'
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 8, 2022 6:03 PM CST
Scottish Leader Formally Apologizes to Executed 'Witches'
A monument to an executed witch in Perthshire, Scotland reads, "Maggie Wall burnt here 1657 as a witch."   (Getty Images/BMPix)

On International Women's Day, Scotland's leader offered a formal apology to the thousands of people, almost all of them women, who were convicted of witchcraft in previous centuries. Sturgeon described the persecution and execution of the alleged witches as "injustice on a colossal scale, driven at least in part, by misogyny in its most literal sense—hatred of women," the Herald reports. More than 4,000 people were convicted under the Witchcraft Act of 1563 and thousands were executed. They were usually strangled, then burned. The final execution for witchcraft in Britain was that of Scottish woman Janet Horne, who was burned at the stake in 1727. For years, campaigners have been calling for a formal apology.

"Those who met this fate were not witches," Sturgeon told lawmakers in a speech Tuesday. "They were people. And they were overwhelmingly women. At a time when women were not even allowed to speak as witnesses in a courtroom, they were accused and killed because they were poor, different, vulnerable, or in many cases just because they were women," she said. Sturgeon said one reason it is important to apologize for the "egregious historic injustice" is because while the Witchcraft Act is history, the misogyny that motivated it is not, the Guardian reports. "Today it expresses itself not in claims of witchcraft, but in everyday harassment, online rape threats, and sexual violence," she said.

"It is no wonder that more women than ever before, certainly in my lifetime, are now questioning whether politics and public life are safe environments for women," Sturgeon said. She also expressed support for the women of Ukraine, noting that thousands marched for gender equality in Kyiv a year ago. Today, "Kyiv, and cities across Ukraine are under brutal Russian bombardment," Sturgeon said, per the Herald. "So today, from our national Parliament here in Edinburgh, Kyiv’s twin city, let us send the women and girls, men and boys of Ukraine our love, solidarity, and support.” (More Scotland stories.)

Get the news faster.
Tap to install our app.
Install the Newser News app
in two easy steps:
1. Tap in your navigation bar.
2. Tap to Add to Home Screen.