Rutherglen & Hamilton West’s SNP Westminster candidate Margaret Ferrier has today (12 May) written to her Conservative opponent, Ann Le Blond, challenging her to condemn the so-called Tory ‘rape clause’.
In July 2015, George Osborne, the then Chancellor of the Exchequer, announced plans to cut child tax payments to the first two children per family and implement a ‘non-consensual sex exemption’. The policy requires the tax credit claimant to prove to social workers and health professionals that their third or subsequent child was conceived as a result of rape in order to qualify for the exemption.
The SNP have been leading the calls for the policy to be scrapped at Westminster, with Alison Thewliss, the previous Glasgow Central MP, first raising this issue 22 months ago.
Campaigners argue that the policy is unworkable, and last week the Herald newspaper reported that “in the United States similar welfare policies are being ditched amid concerns about their failure.”
Commenting, SNP candidate Margaret Ferrier said:
“The rape clause is one of the worst policies to come from this increasingly shameful Tory party. Time and again this issue is coming up on doorsteps – countless constituents share my disgust and agree that the rape clause should be immediately scrapped.
“Ann LeBlond has been eager to get into politics – standing as a candidate for Holyrood in Renfrewshire last year, and as a councillor last week – but political office comes with responsibility. I sincerely hope she will join me, the SNP, women’s welfare groups, faith leaders, trade unions and child poverty campaigners in condemning the rape clause.
“The SNP has shown time and again that we are the true opposition to the callous Tories at Westminster and my party will continue to be so after June 8th. This election is a straight fight between the SNP and the Tories, and I hope the people of Rutherglen and Cambuslang put their trust in me once more to continue representing them at Westminster.”
Copy of letter to Ann Le Blond (personal information redacted)
Recent column written by Margaret Ferrier for the Rutherglen Reformer on the rape clause:
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.