IT is not always easy to say sorry, but in formally apologising to gay men convicted of now-abolished sexual offences, the First Minister has taken an important and rather moving decision. As Nicola Sturgeon said at Holyrood, Scotland has travelled a long way on gay equality and the Government’s apology is another significant step forward.

Of course, in some ways the apology was always an easy win-win for Ms Sturgeon. Attitudes to homosexuality have changed so much in recent years that the Government could make its apology and pick up the plaudits without too much risk of awkward questions.

However, there is a serious practical element to the apology, which is that anyone with a historical conviction for a same-sex offence that is now legal will be able to apply for a formal disregard. This will have a positive effect on people who are forced to explain their records when they apply for jobs or promotions.

But what next? Ms Sturgeon said the journey is not yet complete and she is right. Homophobia is still a problem in society and the evidence from some teachers is that the Government’s guidance is not having the impact it should on homophobic bullying in schools.

An apology for the mistakes of the past is most welcome, but more action to ensure that the mistakes are not repeated in future would be even better.