The rape clause is one of the few exemptions to the Tory Government’s two-child limit to tax credits. It means women can receive benefits for a third child if they can prove to the Department for Work and Pensions that the child was conceived through rape. The issue had dominated clashes between Sturgeon and Davidson just minutes earlier during First Minister’s Questions.
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Sturgeon pressed the Tory leader asking her: “Do you support the rape clause in principle or do you, like me, think it is utterly abhorrent?”
Davidson was drowned out by SNP, Labour, Green and Liberal Democrat cries of “shame,” when she replied: “If the First Minister doesn’t like the two-child tax policy, she can change it.”
With the UK going to the polls on June 8, the policy is clearly going to be a key issue in the next seven weeks of campaigning. Sturgeon told the chamber: “The rape clause has been introduced by a Tory Government at Westminster with a tiny majority. If that is what a Tory Government can do with a tiny majority, let us just think of the damage an unfettered, out-of-control Tory Government can do with a bigger majority.”
Tory MSP Jackson Carlaw had been on Radio Scotland in the morning, telling women they would not have to fill in a form to get the rape clause exemption, and accused the Scottish Government of “misinformation”
However, the UK Government website states: “You’ll need to complete the non-consensual conception form with the help of an approved third-party professional.”
Speaking at the protest outside Parliament, SNP MP Alison Thewliss, who has led the campaign against the clause, said Carlaw clearly didn’t even understand his own party policy”.
“This is a deeply harmful Tory attack on families and women, not a form-filling exercise – the Tories are trying to pull the wool over voters’ eyes,” Thewliss said.
The policy was, she added, “absolutely despicable, disgusting” and it was “unacceptable that this Tory Government would do that to women and to children”.
Among the protesters were two grandmothers, calling themselves the Berwickshire Granarchists, who said they were “raging” at the policy and had travelled to Edinburgh to add their voice to the protest.
“It’s the inequality,” Alison Currie told The National. “It’s the poorest people in society who are going to be affected, especially women.
“Bloomin’ big corporations are getting away with tax avoidance, rich landowners are getting away without paying death duties.
“The only hope for Scotland now is to sever the official ties with the rest of the UK and create a better Scotland.”
Fellow Granarchist Kate Duncan added: “The changes are entrenched now but we can still go on exposing the Tories who made this policy.”
Demonstration organiser Sarah Masson said the no-show from the Tories was expected. “We didn’t think they would come out,” she said. “We hoped. But it’s not unexpected.”
Masson continued: “I think it means they’re out of the touch with the people of Scotland. There’s a clear opposition to this. It’s crystal clear. The fact that Ruth Davidson and the Scottish Tories haven’t said anything is disappointing.”
Rachel Adamson, director of Zero Tolerance, the campaign against violence against women, said: “I think it shows their disrespect for women’s rights, it shows their disrespect for the growing momentum there is behind this campaign, and it shows their true colours as the nasty party.”