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H&I Tories under fire for backing party’s ‘abhorrent’ rape clause

Highlands and Islands list MSPs Donald Cameron, Douglas Ross and Edward Mountain voted against a motion condemning the "rape clause" at Holyrood.

THE HIGHLANDS and Islands’ three Conservative list MSPs have come under fire over their support for the “rape clause”, which has been condemned by charities working with sexual assault victims and every other Holyrood political party.

SNP MSP Maree Todd’s call last week for Douglas Ross, Edward Mountain and Donald Cameron to oppose the “appalling and inhumane” two-child limit on eligibility for child tax credit has fallen on deaf ears.

The policy includes an exemption for other children if the mother can demonstrate that the child was conceived as a result of rape or during an abusive or coercive relationship. 

Liberal Democrat MP Alistair Carmichael, Rape Crisis Shetland and numerous other politicians and organisations nationally, including women’s aid and victim support charities, have also opposed the measure, while SNP MP Alison Thewliss has spearheaded the campaign to scrap the policy.

Shetland MSP Tavish Scott also condemned the measure as a “bad and indeed abhorrent policy” after voting in favour of a Holyrood motion – passed by 91 votes to 31 – describing the policy as “disgraceful and repugnant” on Tuesday.

He singled out Labour leader Kezia Dugdale’s speech on the subject in a Scottish Parliament debate as “excellent” and welcomed the fact that parliament was “obviously united – apart from the Conservatives”.

The MSP also praised the strong stance taken by Thewliss and First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.

He said there was “not much of a defence put up by Ruth Davidson and the Tories. It would be good to know the Tories would change the policy after the election, because it’s just plain wrong – a bad and indeed abhorrent policy”.

“I think they [Scottish Tories] are incredibly uncomfortable with this. I think many Conservative MSPs, and maybe some MPs, would wish the government changed its position,” Scott added.

Todd said: “Asking a woman to prove that her child was conceived as a result of rape in order to receive tax credits is utterly appalling and might just be one of the most abhorrent and inhumane policies to ever emanate from Westminster.

“A choice between potential poverty, or being forced to disclose rape and have someone else decide if that rape even happened, is no choice at all.”

She said Davidson and her party “should be thoroughly ashamed” but instead they are “defending the indefensible welfare cuts coming from Westminster.”

Todd posed the question to Tory MSPs in the Highlands and Islands: “Do you condemn these appalling policies, or do you stand by your party’s statement that forced disclosure of rape is the ‘most sensitive way possible’ to manage benefits?”

Shetland News approached all three Tory MSPs seeking a response on Monday.

Ross initially said it was “best to deal with constituents when they raise these issues rather than politicians putting out PRs and counter PRs”.

Asked whether he supported the policy, he responded: “I do agree with the changes to family tax credits which were announced back in 2015 with the support of other parties at Westminster.”

Cameron said: “Like my colleagues, I have been responding directly to my constituents on this issue and I clarified my position in a speech to the Scottish Parliament on Tuesday.

“I support the two child tax credit limit and equally support the need for exemptions to support women and families who find themselves in a situation whereby they require additional support as a result of circumstances outwith their control.

“As I noted in my speech to the Scottish Parliament on Tuesday, partisan politics and exaggerated statements from other politicians do not help the people that these exemptions intend to support.”

Mountain has yet to respond, but joined his Conservative colleagues in voting against the Holyrood motion on Tuesday.