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Ruth Davidson urged to speak out on ‘rape clause’ stance

Ruth Davidson MSP (Andrew Cowan/Scottish Parliament)
Ruth Davidson MSP (Andrew Cowan/Scottish Parliament)

FIRST MINISTER Nicola Sturgeon has called on Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson to speak up on the UK Government’s “rape clause”.

Ms Davidson released a statement through a spokesman on Tuesday giving her backing to exemptions to the UK Government’s welfare reforms, including the controversial clause.

That came after Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale called on Ms Davidson to confront the Prime Minister over the rule which requires rape victims to prove their third child was born as a result of non-consensual sex or while in a coercive relationship in order to claim tax credits.

The clause is one of several exemptions to welfare reforms limiting claims for child tax credit and Universal Credit to the first two children, which came into force last week.

The Scottish Tory leader is now facing further pressure to make a personal statement on the issue.

Ms Sturgeon tweeted:

SNP MSP Gillian Martin added: “To deny any woman tax credits for a third or subsequent child unless they can prove they have been raped is barbaric and utterly disgraceful. This Tory Government at Westminster has stooped to a new low, even by their standards.

“And in Scotland, Ruth Davidson has gone into hiding 0 leaving a party spokesperson to defend the policy to the hilt while she tries to distance herself from this embarrassment.

“But it’s becoming untenable for Ruth Davidson to keep this up. She needs to give a clear, unequivocal statement on where she and her party stand on this vile policy.”

A spokesman for Ms Davidson said previously the changes to child tax credits mean the same rules apply to people on benefits as to those who are working and current claimants would face no reduction.

He added: “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.”