Pardon for gay men convicted under discriminatory laws

Scheme opens to allow convictions to be removed from criminal records.

Men prosecuted for same-sex sexual activity which is now entirely legal are able to apply to have their convictions erased under the Historical Sexual Offences (Pardons and Disregards) Act.

The legislation, previously passed by the Scottish Parliament, is now in force and grants an automatic pardon to every gay and bisexual man in Scotland convicted under discriminatory laws.

Men with such convictions can now also apply to have them removed from central criminal records under a ‘disregards’ scheme.

Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf said:

“There is no place for homophobia, ignorance and hatred in modern Scotland.

“This landmark legislation provides an automatic pardon to men convicted of same-sex sexual activity, which is now entirely legal.

“We have been working closely with Police Scotland and other partners to ensure the ‘disregard’ scheme is clear and effective and has appropriate safeguards in place.

“This legislation makes good on the commitments made by the First Minister, who gave an unqualified apology for the now outdated and discriminatory laws, and for the harm they caused to many.”

Tim Hopkins, Director of the Equality Network, said:

“This is a historic day for Scotland. For centuries, sexual relationships between men were criminalised. Criminal law on same-sex and mixed-sex relationships remained seriously discriminatory until as recently as 2001. Today, all those discriminatory convictions are pardoned.

“The purpose of this Act is to acknowledge the wrongfulness and discriminatory effect of past convictions for relationships between men. People living with those convictions on their record now have confirmation that they did nothing wrong – it was the law that was wrong – and the Government has apologised for that wrong.

“People can now fill in a form to have all records of their conviction deleted. For those who passed away before seeing this day, the pardon applies to them too and their suffering is also acknowledged.”

Sophie Bridger, Campaigns, Policy and Research Manager for Stonewall Scotland, said:

“The new disregards process is a positive step in righting historical wrongs that punished people in same-sex relationships. Along with the hurt and damage that came with being prosecuted for who they loved, some people have been carrying a criminal record for something which should never have been illegal. They will now finally have the chance to delete these former offences from their criminal record. We hope this will bring comfort and closure to those affected and draw a line once and for all under this dark piece of Scotland’s history.”


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

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

Under the Historical Sexual Offences (Pardons and Disregards) Act, which was passed unanimously in June 2018, the pardon is automatic as of 15 October 2019 .

Separately the disregards scheme, also in place from 15 October, will allow 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.

Further information on how applications should be made can be found on the website.


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