RUTH Davidson has been criticised after suggesting she was “open” to reviewing how the so-called rape clause would work.

During an interview with BBC Radio 5 Live yesterday, the Scottish Tory leader backed the benefits cap, saying she thought it was “right that child tax credits are limited to the first two children”. And she added that it was proper that there was an exemption to that cap for children born as a result of rape.

“I also think that it’s right that if you are going to have that limit, that you have exceptions in exceptional cases, including the very worst cases like the one that you are referring to,” she told the station’s Emma Barnett.

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Davidson added: “In terms of how that works on the ground, if there are issues with that, then I am com- pletely open – if there are better ways of doing it – to reviewing that.”

Speaking on a campaign visit to Kirkintilloch, East Dunbartonshire, Nicola Sturgeon said Davidson’s comments were “mealy-mouthed”.

The policy, announced in the Budget in 2015, came into force last month. Currently, the exemption is supposed to be verified or authen- ticated by a third party, However, in Scotland, the organ-isations who would likely fill that role, have said they are not willing to “collude” with the government on the policy.

Davidson said that the system this is based on is one that “already works elsewhere and had broad support elsewhere”.

She added: “If there is an issue – and we don’t know yet, because it’s only just coming in – if there’s an issue with how that’s done, then let’s review that.”

Sturgeon said: “She [Davidson] seems to be talking about a review of how the rape clause operates, not a review of the rape clause in principle.

“I don’t think you can operate the rape clause in any way that is acceptable because it’s wrong in principle that any woman should have to prove that she’s been raped in order to claim support for one of her children.

“The rape clause is wrong in principle, the two-child cap is wrong in principle and I think it is shameful that Ruth Davidson can’t bring herself to say so.

“The fact that she’s being mealy-mouthed about reviewing how it works, I think, shows that she knows she’s on the wrong side of the argument.”

Emma Ritch, executive director of the charity Engender, said the family cap was putting ideology at the centre of the social security system.

“It scolds and deprives families who failed to predict that they would one day be facing contraceptive failure, family breakdown, wanting children with a new partner, or bereavement,” she argued.

“The exemptions to the two-child limit – for four instances where women could not have reasonably foreseen pregnancy or parenthood – illustrate what it is: a state expression of the number of children that it believes low-waged families should have.”

The flawed policy was, Ritch added, unworkable. She said: “Concerns about the extent to which forced disclosure will traumatise women means that no expert rape and domestic abuse services or health professionals have agreed to act as third-party referrers in Scotland, to our knowledge.

“Ultimately, we do not believe it is possible to design any system that compels women to unwillingly disclose rape that does not breach women’s rights.”