Scottish Parliament committee backs law to automatically pardon gay men

Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon

Scotland is one step closer to approving legislation that will pardon gay men for historical discrimination.

Members of the Scottish Parliament (MSPs) on the influential Equalities and Human Rights Committee have unanimously supported the Historical Sexual Offences (Pardons and Disregards) Bill.

If approved it would mean that all convicted gay and bisexual men would receive a formal pardon and allow them to apply for past convictions of this nature to be legally disregarded, or removed from criminal records.

The committee said the proposed law is “long overdue and welcome”.

Equal marriage campaigners in Scotland (Getty)

Police Scotland have identified up to 1,261 offences recorded against 994 people which fall within the scope of the Bill.

MSPs heard from anonymous witnesses who describe the effect being found ‘guilty’ for their sexuality had on their lives.

One man who was convicted for kissing another man in the street said his career had been hindered as he feared applying for jobs that required disclosures.

Another witness to the committee described how he was fined for “loitering in a public convenience for a use other than as a lavatory or toilet or apartment”.

He said the conviction caused him a lifetime of worry and embarrassment when he was forced to disclose it to employers and friends.

Alan Turing

Alan Turing

Related: This is what the Turing Law pardon means

Committee convener Christina McKelvie MSP said: “The unanimous committee backing is an important step forward for this Bill.

“Although the pardon is automatic, we would encourage anybody eligible to apply for the disregard.

“This means that decriminalised offences won’t show up on background checks if you’re doing something like applying for a new job or trying to become a volunteer with a protected or vulnerable group.

“The committee hopes this Bill will help people to move on with their lives, and that we are helping to right a historic wrong.”