Willie Rennie’s speech as Nicola Sturgeon apologises to gay men for historic convictions

It was an emotional day in the Scottish Parliament yesterday. In the balcony, men openly wept as First Minister Nicola Sturgeon delivered a heartfelt apology to gay men for historic convictions as the Scottish Parliament prepared to pass legislation that would pardon them.

All the Scottish party leaders joined in to add to the apology. Here is Willie Rennie’s speech:

Can I start by thanking the First Minister for making her statement and her apology on behalf of the Scottish Government.

It is an important thing to do.

For many gay people the idea of a pardon carries with it connotations of forgiveness for a wrongdoing

The apology today from the First Minister makes it clear that it was the law, the enforcement of that  law and the attitude of those in authority, in our country’s past, who were wrong.

Today we are all adding to that apology by reflecting on the wasted potential and lost achievements of those men whose lives were limited or tragically cut short because of this injustice.

People were imprisoned and fined.

Their lives and families were in many cases ruined.

Men became outsiders from their families and their communities.

Our country is poorer for the limits we placed on those men’s freedom.

It is right that Parliament stands together to apologise for that.

It is easy today, to imagine that this is all ancient history.

Certainly when we see Alan Turing we see photographs in black and white.

But the estimates are that most prosecutions were in the 1980s.

Within easy memory.

With many of those arrested and prosecuted, and those who made the arrests and led the prosecutions still with us.

In the summer the BBC showed their dramatised documentary “Against The Law” which commemorated fifty years since the partial decriminalisation of homosexuality.

One of the testimonies was from Professor Roger Lockyer, who lived with his partner, later his husband, for more than fifty years. He described with great humour, but also great poignancy the struggle, the secrecy and the injustice of the law of this country over those fifty years and the decades before.

He himself overcame all of that to have an academic career of importance and achievement, one that increased our understanding of history. But he also lived through, and made, a part of history.

So it was sad to learn that he died last week, at 89 years of age, but having lived to see his equality recognised and set into law.

Today this Parliament shows respect to all those individuals who were wronged by our laws.

And in closing I would want to say that individual human rights, particularly for gay people, are not universal throughout the world.

In recent weeks we have heard of serious oppression and mistreatment of gay people in Azerbaijan, Chechnya, Indonesia and Egypt.

Our country needs to stand for equality, and for respect for the individual and will not be able to stop speaking out after today.

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