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Thursday, 13 April 2017

Sturgeon ramps up pressure on Davidson over 'indefensible' rape clause stance

Written by The Press Association

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has branded Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson "shameful" for her stance on the UK Government's so-called 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 faced further pressure on Wednesday to make a personal statement on the issue.

Ms Sturgeon tweeted: "@RuthDavidsonMSP defence of appalling #rapeclause seems to have been via a spokesperson so far. Isn't it time she gave her view in person?"

The Scottish Conservatives declined to issue an update and Ms Davidson tweeted: "Statement released by my spokesman on child tax credits represents my view. Will be writing to constituents who have contacted me this week."

The First Minister responded to Ms Davidson by writing on Twitter: "So @RuthDavidsonMSP seeks to defend the indefensible - but still can't bring herself to do it in her own words. Shameful."

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."

Ms Dugdale said: "Ruth Davidson has finally ended her silence and confirmed that she supports the Tory government's 'rape clause'. This is a shameful and abhorrent position for Ruth Davidson to adopt.

"When people claim that she is a different kind of Tory we can now point to clear evidence showing that is not the case.

"Ruth Davidson is just as bad as all the other right wing Tories who want to force rape victims to fill out a form so they can get support from the Government.

"Labour will continue to stand with those who campaign against this shameful policy."

Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2017, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) Andrew Milligan / PA Wire.