Nicola Sturgeon uses International Women's Day to apologise to 'witches' burned at the stake 500 years ago

The First Minister called the practice an 'injustice on a colossal scale'

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Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has apologised on behalf of the Scottish Government to thousands of women who were executed for witchcraft between 16th century and the 18th century.

Ms Sturgeon, who made the statement on International Women's Day, labelled the killing of women for witchcraft as an "injustice on a colossal scale."

She went on that the practice was driven "at least in part by misogyny in its most literal sense - hatred of women."

Witch hunting became highly prevalent in Europe in the 16th century.

The Scottish Parliament passed the 1563 Witchcraft Act, making "witchcraft, sorcery and necromancy" punishable by death, under the rule of Mary, Queen of Scots.

It wasn't until 1735 that the law was repealed. At this time, 3,847 people were tried - approximately 66% were burned at the stake.

In the Scottish Parliament, the First Minister told MSPs she wished to "acknowledge that egregious, historic injustice and extend a formal posthumous apology to all those accused, convicted, vilified or executed under the Witchcraft Act 1563.

"Some will ask why this generation should say sorry for something that happened centuries ago, it might actually be pertinent to ask why it has taken so long."

Ms Sturgeon went on: "At a time when women were not even allowed to speak as witnesses in a court, they were accused and killed, because they were poor, different, vulnerable or, in many cases, just because they were women.

"Those who met this fate were not witches, they were people, and they were overwhelmingly women.

"For some this is not yet historic, there are parts of our world where even today women and girls face persecution and sometimes death because they have been accused of witchcraft.