The following is Margaret’s column from the 19th April 2017 edition of the Rutherglen Reformer:
Contained within the small print of the Tory Government’s 2015 Budget was a proposal to limit tax credits to two children and, in order for a third child to qualify for tax credits, women would have to provide evidence of exceptional circumstances, such as rape.
This restriction, effectively a two-child policy, was a horrifying prospect – but made much worse by a proposal that would force survivors of rape to relive a gruesome and traumatic ordeal, simply to receive social security payments.
It is absolutely abhorrent the Tories think that this policy – which came into effect earlier this month – is morally acceptable.
And despite it also being very difficult to implement, the UK Government has pressed ahead regardless – issuing forms that need to be completed and effectively wrapping rape in red tape.
Requiring a woman to prove that her child was conceived as a result of rape is utterly appalling and must be one of the most vile policies ever to come from Westminster, yet it has been totally railroaded through Parliament without debate or the approval of MPs.
The SNP has been resolute from the outset that these policies are immoral, unworkable, and must be scrapped.
My party colleague Alison Thewliss, MP for Glasgow Central, has been tireless in her campaigning on this issue, and her dogged determination has ensured that this issue has not only been kept in the spotlight for almost two years now, but has gathered significant opposition from across the political spectrum and civic society.
Tory ministers even conceded in the consultation response document that “most respondents felt it was unacceptable for the UK Government to ask women to re-live the ordeal of a rape just in order to make a claim for benefit”.
The rape clause and two child policy is now opposed by faith leaders, trade unions, women’s rights campaigners and MPs from every party in the House of Commons.
Reputable charities such as Rape Crisis Scotland and Scottish Women’s Aid are refusing to “collude” with any scheme to assess entitlement for rape victims.
SNP Health Secretary Shona Robison has now written to the UK Government, to advise that there will be no co-operation from the Scottish NHS on what she has called a “terrible policy”.
As a result, Scottish NHS workers will not receive Whitehall guidance on how to implement it.
This resistance from womens’ charities and the Scottish Government raises very serious questions about how the Tories will be able to operate the rape clause in Scotland in practice.
You may wonder where the Scottish Tories have been throughout this.
After months of silence, Ruth Davidson initially tried to hide behind her official spokesperson, then last week came out in open support of the rape clause.
She did so with a pathetic attack on the Scottish Government, attempting to deflect attention from her party’s direct responsibility for this policy.
No amount of misdirection or fuzzy photo opportunities will help Ruth Davidson out this time.
She may think that she has detoxified the Tories in Scotland, but this particular episode has left it brutally clear for all to see that the Conservatives truly are the nasty party.