WOMEN and men from across the Borders who were convicted of witchcraft and subsequently executed could finally be pardoned if a private members bill becomes law this year.

In 1563 in Scotland the Witchcraft Act was enacted and remained in law until 1736.

The vast majority of those accused, some 84 per cent, were women.

Trials began all over Scotland, with three times the number of witchcraft prosecutions than England and five times the European average.

By the time the act was repealed there were an estimated 4,000 people who had been accused and tried although that number could be higher due to a lack of available records.

And historians believe that more witches were accused, tried and executed in the Scottish Borders than any other area of Scotland except Edinburgh and the Lothians.

Stow-based author Mary Craig who wrote the book Borders Witch Hunt supports the call for a pardon.

She says around 350 people were trialled in the Borders.

Ms Craig said: “As a country we are rightly proud of Robert the Bruce and William Wallace so we should acknowledge the bad things we have done. I’m not a lawyer so there may be some legal arguments against a pardon, but I would support this bill.

“In the Scottish Borders alone there were around 350 women and men brought to trial resulting in around 220 being executed. Another 15 died of ill-treatment or just the poor conditions in prison so the numbers in the region were pretty high when you consider there wasn’t much of a population at that time.

“And It wasn’t all that long ago, in fact there was a woman from Selkirk executed in 1700. If it happened today there would be demonstrations outside the High Court and the Parliament but in those days the church was so powerful.

“So I think there should also be an apology and in my opinion a national monument, not just for the women and men accused but also for their families.”

The bill is being put forward to SNP MSP Natalie Don, who is looking for cross-party support.

If approved in the Scottish Parliament, a pardon would be secured for those convicted under the Witchcraft Act.

Ms Don said: “I’ve already had support from my own group the SNP who are happy for me to take this forward and now I’ll be looking for cross party support.

“It's essentially admitting that this wasn't a criminal act and that these people shouldn't go down in history as criminals. They should be given a posthumous pardon.”

The bill has secured the support of First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and could be passed as early as this summer.