SHAMEFUL and abhorrent.

That’s how Nicola Sturgeon and Kezia Dugdale described Ruth Davidson after the Scots Tory leader threw her weight behind the Government’s rape clause.

After mounting pressure to say what she thought about the policy, Davidson tweeted to say that she stood by the comments made by her spokesman on Monday.

“Statement released by my spokesman on child tax credits represents my view. Will be writing to constituents who have contacted me this week,” she tweeted.

Her spokesman had previously said the change to child tax credit rules would bring fairness to the system.

He told press: “During consultation on these reforms, the UK Government put in place exemptions to protect women who are faced with very difficult circumstances so they can continue to receive child tax credit for all children in a household.

“We support these exemptions but there is clearly an obligation on the Government, working with third party agencies, to ensure that these cases are dealt with with all due care and attention.

“For example, the Department for Work and Pensions has made clear that women will be offered support from experienced third-party professionals who will be able to confirm that exceptions should apply.

“We hope this will be of assistance but it is also clear that the situation should continue to be monitored to ensure any improvements can be made as we go forward.”

The clause is the result of George Osborne’s plans to limit child tax credit to two children, announced in his last budget over a year ago.

Squirreled away at the back of the budget papers was the commitment from the Government to waive this restriction if a woman could prove that one of her children was the result of rape.

This was widely condemned by rape charities and a number of women’s groups.

Sturgeon accused Davidson of cowardice, tweeting: “So @RuthDavidsonMSP seeks to defend the indefensible — but still can’t bring herself to do it in her own words. Shameful. #RapeClause”

She followed it up: “Of course, @RuthDavidsonMSP could always offer to go on camera today to outline why she thinks the #RapeClause is defensible. Will she?”

Labour’s Dugdale tweeted: “There we have it. Ruth’s view is that you should have to declare you’ve been raped on a form to get state support. Abhorrent.”

Davidson, at the time of going to press, had not responded to either Sturgeon or Dugdale.

Anti-rape clause campaigners are gathering in Glasgow tonight for a demonstration against the “pernicious two child policy and medieval rape clause.” SNP MP Alison Thewliss, who has spearheaded the campaign against the policy said: “Tonight we gather to speak with one voice and send a clear message to this Tory Government: scrap the rape clause and two child policy now.

“The fact that women have to demonstrate in George Square in 2017 against such a barbaric and vile policy is bad enough. What’s worse is the wall of silence these women are being faced with. Ruth Davidson and Theresa May cannot hide behind that wall of silence much longer. We are not giving up and we will fight this appalling policy every step of the way. We will not rest until our voices are heard and these anti-women policies are consigned to history.”

The Government published the form last week that rape victims will need to fill in if they want tax credits. They need to declare that they do not live with their attacker if they wish to claim an exemption.

This means, women who live in coercive relationship or who are still with a rapist will not be eligible for the benefit.

The eight-page form, published by the Department for Work and Pensions as part of wide-ranging welfare changes that came into force last Thursday, was met with outrage from charities and political opponents.


Comment: You can’t just take a safety net away from struggling families

WHEN I was a kid, my “dad” walked out, stopped paying child maintenance, and we didn’t hear from him for seven years after that. I’ve never spoken publicly about this experience, nor did I really have any desire to up until now – but step in the Family Cap and step up Twitter.

The introduction of limitations to Child Tax Credit to two children has rightly hit the news for the associated abhorrent and now notorious “rape clause” but as horrific as this policy is, we can’t lose sight of the everyday cruelty of welfare cuts including the Family Cap and the catastrophic and disproportionate impact these have on women and children.

When my dad upped and left, my mum needed Child Tax Credits to get by, to put food on the table. I am the youngest of four, so under the new policy she wouldn’t have received anything for me and my older sister.

This is not uncommon. Most women’s life plans don’t involve raising four kids alone on a shoestring, but things happen and they manage. That they do manage is testament to their strength and resilience, and that should be applauded. I keep hearing that ‘people shouldn’t have kids if they can’t afford them’ but it’s a total red herring with a sinister undertone that only well off people are responsible enough to have children.

People leave. People die. People lose their jobs. No one really knows what life is going to throw up next, and welfare is the safety net that is supposed to be there to catch us when we fall. To see it being eroded under the guise of ‘responsible parenting’ is quite frankly heart breaking. The added callousness of the rape clause cannot be forgotten. The exemption that applies if women can ‘prove’ a child was born from non-consensual sex with third party verification is “compassionate” by the DWP’s reckoning. As though forcing a woman to disclose rape to receive welfare could ever be compassionate.

We are protesting tonight because we are angry, and it is okay to be angry. In fact, when the very institution that is supposed to protect its citizens is actively pushing women and children into poverty and re-traumatising rape victim-survivors then we have to be angry.

Join us in George Square tonight; it’s time to raise our voices and to say enough.

-  Brenna Jessie, protest organiser