Ruth Davidson accuses Nicola Sturgeon of ‘gross hypocrisy’ over two-child tax credits policy
The Scottish Conservative leader has said Sturgeon must mitigate the effects of the UK Government’s two-child policy on tax credits or be accused of hypocrisy
Ruth Davidson MSP, Scottish Conservative leader - Image credit: David Anderson/Holyrood
The First Minister leaves herself open to the charge of “gross hypocrisy” if she doesn’t mitigate the effects of the UK Government’s two-child limit on tax credits, claims Ruth Davidson.
The Scottish Conservative leader challenged Nicola Sturgeon on whether she plans to use the Scottish Parliament's new welfare powers to create a Scottish benefit to support further children excluded by the UK Government policy.
Not to do so, Davidson said, would mean the First Minister was guilty of "gross hypocrisy".
Responding to Davidson’s comments on Twitter, Sturgeon said: “Pathetic. @scotgov spends millions mitigating welfare cuts & will continue to do so. We wouldn't have to if Tories didn't make callous cuts.”
And SNP MP Alison Thewliss responded with anger to Davidson’s comments, calling them “a special kind of twisted logic”.
From 1 April the UK Government will only pay child tax credits for up to two children.
However, from 1 April the Scottish Parliament also gained new welfare powers, which includes the creation of new benefits specific to Scotland.
Both the SNP and Scottish Labour having set out their opposition to the UK Government's tax credits policy, but neither has said whether they plan to use the Scottish Parliament’s new welfare powers to assist those affected.
The response from Davidson follows controversy over her support for the so-called ‘rape clause’, where an exception to the two-child limit will be made if a mother can prove a third child was conceived as a result of rape.
Writing in the Daily Record earlier this week, Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale called the rape clause a “barbaric move” and praised SNP MP Thewliss, who has been campaigning against it.
And yesterday Nicola Sturgeon tweeted that Ruth Davidson was seeking to “defend the indefensible” by supporting the rape clause.
There has been a strong reaction to the rape clause, with opposition politicians and charities expressing outrage that a women would be forced to prove they were raped in order to get support.
And with no organisations in Scotland willing to be involved in certifying rape for the purposes of the policy, it looks to be unworkable in practice.
The SNP and Labour had both called for Davidson to make a statement personally on the rape clause after a comment in support of it was put out on her behalf by a Scottish Conservative spokesperson.
She herself had remained silent other than confirming that the statement did reflect her views.
Commenting today, Davidson said: "We support the exemptions which the UK Government has put in place on restrictions to child tax credits, and we want to see the UK Government implement them in the most compassionate way possible. That work is on-going.
"The SNP has said it opposes the two-child policy on tax credits, so it now has a choice to make.
"At Holyrood, we now have the power to create new benefits. So the Scottish Government could, if it wanted, propose a new benefit to provide funding for families with more than two children.
"Of course this would have to be paid for, but if the SNP government believes this to be of such importance, then it can act.
"However, if Nicola Sturgeon simply wants to use this to complain about the policies of the UK Government – and not act at Holyrood when she has the power to do so – then she leaves herself open to the charge of gross hypocrisy."
Responding to Davidson’s comments, Thewliss said: “Ruth Davidson has become completely isolated and desperate in her attempts to defend the vile rape clause.
“It takes a special kind of twisted logic for the Tory leader in Scotland to call for the Scottish Parliament to protect families from the vindictive policies of the Tory Government in Westminster.
“Ms Davidson fails to mention that people in Scotland already pay our taxes to the UK Government for a social security system that should be fair and there when we need it.
“If Ruth Davidson wants the Scottish Government to mitigate yet more Tory cuts, will she also call on the Tory government to pass on Scotland’s share of the £12 billion ‘savings’ they intend to make through those brutal welfare cuts?
“The fact is, this policy is unfair everywhere - and should be scrapped across the whole of the UK.
“Rather than back those calls, Ruth Davidson instead wants people in Scotland to pay an ever-increasing ransom to the Tories at Westminster to protect people on low incomes from ever-more disgraceful Tory policies.”
She continued: “Ms Davidson has admitted that work to implement exemptions from the child tax credit cut is “on-going” – so why on earth was this work not done before the policy was introduced, rather than after?
“Two women are in charge of the Tory party in Scotland and Westminster – neither will admit that they are just wrong, that imposing a cap on children and requiring women on low incomes to prove they were raped to get child tax credit is just simply barbaric.
“The last two weeks have been a watershed moment for the Tories – they have abandoned all semblance of a moral compass.
“It is quite clear that they think they can do whatever they want to vulnerable people and get away with it.”
A rally calling for the rape clause to be scrapped will be held in George Square, Glasgow, at 6pm tonight with speakers including Alison Thewliss and representatives from Shakti Women’s Aid, Rape Crisis Scotland and Feminist Activist.
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