Witches of Scotland: Petition calls for Scottish Parliament to pardon those accused and killed as witches

The group Witches of Scotland has announced that their petition will call on the Scottish Parliament this week to have those accused and killed as witches pardoned.

Writer Zoe Venditozzi and QC Claire Mitchell set up the Witches of Scotland campaign last year. Picture: Stan Clement-Smith
Writer Zoe Venditozzi and QC Claire Mitchell set up the Witches of Scotland campaign last year. Picture: Stan Clement-Smith

On Wednesday, the Scottish Parliament’s Citizen Participation and Public Petitions Committee will consider the petition Witches of Scotland lodged to pardon, apologise and memorialise those killed as witches.

To date, there has been no apology, no pardon and no memorial to those who lost their lives in Scotland.

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The petition is brought by Claire Mitchell QC and writer Zoe Venditozzi as part of the Witches of Scotland campaign – launched on International Women’s Day 2020.

Claire Mitchell QC said: “It’s all about raising awareness to what happened to women and properly recording the history of what happened to women.

"Those accused were vulnerable members of society who were used as scapegoats – if we don’t recognise and deal with our past we go on to make the same mistakes.”

So far, the petition has raised over 3,400 signatures in a six-week period.

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In its response to the petition, the Scottish Government has accepted that the Witchcraft Act of 1563 – which remained in law in Scotland until 1736 – was discriminatory.

Out of the 4,000 people accused under the act, 85% of those were women.

Mitchell QC said: “The really exciting thing about the Scottish Government response is that it accepts that the law was discriminatory but also what it accepts is that there were clear similarities in circumstances of the pardoning of men who were convicted of homosexual offences."

To this day, witchcraft accusations continue to affect people across the world.

Recently, the UN passed a historic resolution requiring countries to protect vulnerable groups from modern witch accusations.

Mitchell said: "We are in contact with a campaigner called Leo Igwe who is an internationally renowned humanist who works with people who have had witchcraft accusations made about them and tries to help them and get them the protection they need through his group Advocacy for Accused Witches.

"It really is a 21st century phenomena and that’s one of the reasons I feel it’s important that Scotland should take a stance.”

Members of the committee reviewing the petition will be Jackson Carlaw, Bill Kidd, Tess White, Paul Sweeney and David Torrance.

Mitchell said: “We really want cross-party support for this.

"It's something which could unite all parties – everyone knows this was wrong and the question is can we do something about it?

"It takes very little and has a great deal of significance for the people of Scotland and worldwide.”

Claire Mitchell QC and Zoe Venditozzi have volunteered to speak to Scottish Parliament on why the petition is important.

Mitchel hopes that the committee will send the petition to other committees so that it can be debated by Parliament.

There has been support worldwide in recognition of the Witches of Scotland plight.

Mitchell commented: "A history magazine got in contact with us from Catalonia and as a result of seeing our campaign started their Witches of Catalonia campaign and they got 150 professors to sign their petition as a start."

To support the petition, members of the public can contact the members of the committee as well as contact their own MSP to highlight their support of the campaign.

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