Automatic pardon for gay and bisexual men

Historical injustice overturned from October.

Men prosecuted for same-sex sexual activity which is now entirely legal will be able to apply to have their convictions erased from October.

Legislation passed unanimously by the Scottish Parliament last year will grant an automatic pardon to every man in Scotland criminalised for breaching homophobic laws which have now been repealed.

Following preparatory work with police and other justice agencies, regulations have now been laid which MSPs will be asked to scrutinise and approve.

These regulations will bring the legislation into force on 15 October, from when men can apply to have convictions removed from central criminal records under a ‘disregards’ scheme.

Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf said:

“We have been working with Police Scotland and other partners to ensure we have a clear and effective system in place as we bring this important legislation into force.

“Subject to Parliament approving the necessary secondary legislation, in October the Act will enable people convicted of these offences to apply to have them disregarded so they will never show up on any form of disclosure or criminal records check.

“And it will provide an automatic pardon to all men convicted of same-sex sexual activity that is quite rightly now legal.

“There are people in Scotland who were criminalised simply because of who they love under laws which fostered homophobia, ignorance and hatred. 

“The Scottish Government absolutely understands the distress that this has caused and we have worked across the Parliament to address this historical injustice.”

Tim Hopkins, Director of the Equality Network, said:

“We welcome the news that the Act will come into force on 15 October.

“On that date, everyone who was convicted for one of the discriminatory offences that targeted relationships between men will receive an automatic pardon.

“Shamefully, those convictions were for things that were legal between a woman and a man, in some cases no more than a kiss in a public place.

“The damage done by Scotland’s homophobic past can never be undone, but the wrong has now been recognised and acknowledged.

“Those who have such convictions on their record will also be able to apply to have them removed, and that will go some way to relieve a burden and stigma that they have carried for decades.”


Same-sex sexual activity between men was made legal in Scotland in 1980 and the age of consent was equalised in 2001.

Under the Historical Sexual Offences (Pardons and Disregards) Act, which was passed unanimously in June 2018, the pardon is automatic.

The scheme will enable anyone with such a conviction to apply to have it ‘disregarded’ so that it will never show up on, for example, an enhanced disclosure check.

In November 2017, the First Minister issued unqualified apologies to those convicted of same-sex sexual activity that is now legal.


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