Presiding Officer, apologies in this place are often offered through gritted teeth and follow a period of acrimony where one party has actively pursued and proven a mistake or a flaw,

…a diversion or hidden truth,

…even a scandal.

This apology is very different. It’s offered with warmth and in the spirit of love and inclusion.

It takes a deep breath and a big heart to say sorry for mistakes of the past.

An even bigger heart when those errors are not your own.

So i offer the congratulations and gratitude of these benches to the government for stepping up and saying sorry today.

We are of course saying sorry to the men who have been arrested, charged and convicted of the crime of loving another man.

As we’ve heard already, homosexuality was only decriminalised in Scotland in 1980 and the law around sexual activity only equalised in 2001.

This matters because it affects men who are alive today. Men whose lives were destroyed by legislation which promoted fear and hate.

Laws that said the love of two men was unnatural, something other, something criminal, soothing wrong. Feeding intolerance and homophobia.

But it also matters to the those who loved and still miss the men who are no longer with us today.

Men who died with criminal records. Many who took their own lives because they could no longer bear the shame and isolation they faced. And our Scotland today, however proud we are of it, still sees gay men more likely to consider suicide. And Stonewall Scotland’s 2017 school report tells us that 1 in 4 young LGBT Scots have considered ending their own life. A truly shocking figure.

In my adult lifetime, the cause of the LGBT community has moved from fighting against homophobia and demanding human rights to fighting for inclusion and equal rights.

We should be proud of that journey but not complacent.

Proud of how far we’ve come from section 2a, through civil partnerships, equal marriage and adoption rights. The lifting of the ban on serving in the military and the introduction of hate crime legislation.

But we cannot risk complacency, and that’s why upholding and applying anti-discrimination laws is critical…

…ensuring the asylum system protects those fleeing violence, and sometimes death, those seeking refuge because of their sexuality

…And why we should wholeheartedly back the TIE campaign and their calls for a truly inclusive education system

Today is a landmark day in Scotland’s LGBT history. In apologising, the First Minister accepts that for Scotland to fulfil its vision of an inclusive future it must be at peace with its past.

This bill will bring that peace by pardoning all those men who were convicted of same sex sexual activity that is now legal. And I understand from the First Ministers statement that such a pardon will lead to the crucial formality of disregards – in other words, wiping the slate clean.

Clearing the criminal records of those convicted so that no such scars of history appear on documents like disclosure checks.

Presiding Officer, today we apologise to Scotland’s gay and bisexual men for criminalising their love of sex and their love for each other- but it’s worth reminding ourselves why the apology doesn’t apply to women.

The reality is that it has never been a crime for two women to be together.

The history books teach us that lawmakers did try, in fact the House of Commons passed an amendment in 1921 to make sex between two women illegal but it was rejected by the House of Lords – because they didn’t want ordinary women to know that such a thing existed.

Very often women had to pass as men to live their lives and if they were caught, they were sometimes convicted of fraud.

Most were not criminalised for their love of each other, but they were still punished.

They were both invisible and demeaned.

Ostracised from their communities and families.

Punished and painted out of history.

Yet through the year’s women and men, gay and straight. Intersex, trans and non-binary. Of all ethnicities and races. All faiths and none – have marched together. Demanding tolerance and respect with pride and passion.

That March has led us here today.

This apology is the product of their work. Their sweat and tears. And I thank them deeply and personally for it.

And crucially it allows our Scotland to take another step of progress, towards an equal and inclusive future for all.

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