A CAMPAIGN seeking a pardon and apology for thousands of Scots tortured and executed for being witches has inspired a similar call for justice in Catalonia.

The drive to recognise what ­happened to victims of the ­Witchcraft Act as a miscarriage of justice is also seeking the creation of a national ­memorial in Scotland. A petition to the Scottish ­Parliament, which will close on March 17, has so far gathered around 1500 signatures.

And now it has inspired a similar campaign in Catalonia to ­memorialise around 700 women there who were accused of being witches, with a similar petition being backed by around 150 professors of history.

Scotland’s Witchcraft Act was in force between 1563 and 1736, ­during which time those convicted were strangled to death and then burned at the stake.

Claire Mitchell QC, who ­instigated the campaign in Scotland a year ago, said the number of women who were tortured and killed under the ­legislation during that time was ­greater than elsewhere.

“Unfortunately in Scotland ­during the period of time we are talking about of the Witchcraft Act, we ­excelled at searching out witches and killing them,” she said.

“Experts tell us we were ­identifying five times as many witches as ­elsewhere in Europe during this time.

“For whatever the reasons were – the structure of the church at that time, the fact people had access to ­local courts, the fact that James VI of Scotland was obsessed with witches and the idea of demonology.

“All those factors came together to make that 200-year period a terrifying one for women.”

During the infamous Salem witch trials in Massachusetts, which began in the spring of 1692, more than 200 people were accused and 19 people were executed by hanging. The site is now marked by a memorial, while some victims were absolved by a law passed in 1957.

In Scotland, more than 3800 people – 84% of whom were women – were thought to be have been accused of witchcraft. Around two-thirds – over 2500 – people were executed.

Mitchell said these numbers were likely to have been an underestimate.

“Some records just say ‘many’ witches were killed in a day, or ‘sundry’ witches were killed in a day,” she said. 
“The estimates about the accusations and murders are conservative for that reason.”

Author Zoe Venditozzi, who is also part of the Witches of Scotland ­campaign, said visiting the grave of Lilias Adie on the foreshore of ­Torryburn, Fife, had brought home the reality of what women had ­suffered.

“It was good to get an understanding of it was a real place and a real thing that happened to a real ­person,” she said.

“For me that was the point it really clicked for me – it was a real person, not just a story.

“Her story is so compelling and ­awful – she was an old lady that somebody else had named [as a witch] and then she was sleep deprived over ­several days and she then died before she was found guilty or innocent.

“That is awful enough as it is, but they took her body and buried it in a big blocked box on the waterline, so she couldn’t come back and cause trouble from beyond the grave.”

She added: “It is a really compelling story but at the same time you are really aware of the fact it was just an old lady from a village in Fife that all these terrible things happened to.

“It really typifies the miscarriage of justice angle to the story.”

Witches of Scotland is holding an online event today at 3pm with ­author Sara Sheridan to discuss why it is ­important to remember the ­history of women to mark ­International ­Women’s Day.

Another online event tomorrow at 2pm will examine the Paisley Witch Trial, which was one of the last mass executions for witchcraft in Western Europe. Mitchell said the witches campaign was still important hundreds of years on as women are “not yet equal in ­society”.

She said: “The beliefs which ­underpinned women being accused of witches stem from the idea that women were weaker intellectually than men, and more susceptible to the charms of the Devil.

“There are so many examples of how we have moved forward, but women are still not equal in society.

“It’s important that we recognise the history of that inequality, in order that we can go on into the future and be equals.”