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Thursday, November 11, 1999 Published at 06:36 GMT

UK: Scotland

MSPs consider pardons for deserters

The silence will be followed by a debate on pardons

The Scottish Parliament joined the rest of Britain and held a two-minute silence to mark the last Armistice Day of the century.

Its members then went on to debate a call for pardons to be given to soldiers who were executed for desertion during the First World War.

[ image: Veterans mark Armistice Day]
Veterans mark Armistice Day
The parliament unanimously agreed to interrupt its morning discussion about the Millennium to mark Armistice Day at 1100GMT and remember Britain's war dead.

It was felt that the eleventh day on the eleventh month was an appropriate day to debate calls for making posthumous pardons to soldiers who were shot for cowardice or disobedience in the 1914 to 1918 war.

As many as 39 Scots were labelled cowards and shot by their own side.

'Victims of conflict'

The motion was tabled by the Dumfries MSP Elaine Murray.

She suggested that time and compassion meant those who were executed should now be treated as victims of the conflict.

The BBC's Liz Mackean: " Upper most in the thoughts of campaigners were the 39 Scottish soldiers"
Families of the troops concerned welcomed the debate.

They support Dr Murray's views that the vast majority were patriotic and brave and that their misfortune was brought about by stress.

Doris Conroy's uncle Charlie Nicholson was shot by his own side for desertion.

She said: "I just want to achieve, well, not a pardon for them, because they haven't done any wrong.

Cross-party support

"Just something to come out of it to give peace to the people, the families that are still living.

"It's a terrible thing to think a relative was a coward."

Around 30 MSPs from the four main parties have signed the motion to see the pardons given.

No vote will be taken and the parliament has no powers to exonerate the soldiers.

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