North-east Conservative MSPs have refused to condemn the controversial “rape clause”.
The UK Government rule – branded a “depraved Tory mess” by an SNP MSP – requires rape victims claiming tax credits for a third or subsequent child to prove they became pregnant as a result of an attack or while in a coercive relationship in order to qualify.
Grampian Women’s Aid and Rape Crisis Grampian have previously said they are concerned by the measure, but North-east MSP Ross Thomson said it recognised “highly sensitive circumstances”.
He said: “In applying for this exemption, women will not be required to either report their rape as a crime, bring new proof of rape or proof of a conviction, or report it directly to HMRC.
“In other words, no evidence other than that of a third party professional, such as a health worker or support worker, will be required.”
He said the DWP had made clear that women will be offered support from experienced third party professionals.
Mr Thomson added the Scottish Government had powers to create new benefits and could provide funding for families with more than two children from its own pockets if it wished to.
A spokesman for the North-east Tory MSPs said Mr Thomson’s view was echoed by his colleagues Alexander Burnett, Peter Chapman, Liam Kerr and Bill Bowman.
The comments came after Aberdeenshire East MSP Gillian Martin urged them speak out against the policy.
She said victims of the “most heinous of crimes truly do not deserve this added humiliation”.
She added: “It can take years for a woman to even admit they have been raped, and now they are expected to do so in order to receive what their child should be entitled to by way of tax credits.
“It begs the question, how can you expect victims of sexual abuse or rape to disclose the most difficult of personal circumstances, in order to receive a small sum of money? And what effect do you think this will have on their children and families?”
Aberdeen Central MSP Kevin Stewart said the North-east Tories were “hiding behind a spokesman” and sticking to a “sick party line”.
He added: “Finally the Tories have admitted that they do not even consider the rape clause to be of importance, and have more confidence in the Scottish Government to mitigate cuts for families than they do for the UK Government to adequately provide support for them.
“The conservatives are expecting women to just freely discuss a rape as if it were a casual caveat to put on a form, rather than the horrendous physical and mental trauma that it actually is.”