The Scottish Government of First Minister Nicola Sturgeon is considering the possibility of granting a posthumous pardon to some 300 people – mostly women – who were executed under the Witchcraft Act between 1563 and 1736.
According to the Sunday Times, some 85% of the victims were females who were found guilty of causing hangovers, turning into an owl or meeting with the Devil in addition to conjuring up storms to sink the ships of King James VI.
The initiative, now under consideration before Parliament, is the result of a two-year long campaign led by a group named Witches of Scotland.
Activists Claire Mitchell QC and Zoe Venditozzi launched a petition on International Women’s Day 2020, demanding that the authorities pardon, apologize, and memorialize those killed as witches in Scotland. On September 1, a parliamentary committee agreed to pass the issue on to the Scottish government.
The bill is likely to be passed around June, 2022.
Witch-hunts were not unique to Scotland. They also took place in Germany, France, Italy, and Switzerland, and the US, although those territories had different names and governments in those days. The prosecution of witches ceased by the late 18th century, at least in western countries.
Saudi Arabia has established an anti-witchcraft unit in 2009 and accused women have even been put to death, while the Central African Republic doles out extremely harsh punishments to those accused of being witches.
Witchcraft laws led to a nationwide search which became known as the Great Scottish Witch Hunt of 1597.