Below is the text of the speech made by Nicola Sturgeon, the Scottish First Minister, on 17 April 2017.
The last few days have exposed the full horror of the rape clause, the wider issues around the cap on child tax credits and the complicity of Scottish Tories in the utterly immoral policies of their Westminster colleagues.
The Tory government’s decision to ban low income families from claiming tax credits for any more than two children, and then force women to prove that they were raped in order to claim tax credits for a third child is inhumane and barbaric – and as we saw in the protest in George Square last week, it is an issue of increasing public anger as the full reality of this inhuman policy becomes clear.
And while the rape clause is the most attention grabbing of the Tories welfare cuts, it’s not the only way in which women are being made to pay the price of Tory policies. Cuts to tax credits will affect women far more than men, because more of women’s income is dependent on benefits and child tax credits.
50,000 Scottish households are expected to be affected by the cuts to child tax credits that will take effect by 2021. New families applying for tax credits could lose £545 a year.
Since these cuts were first announced, with the detail of the rape clause buried deep in one of George Osborne’s final budgets, the SNP’s Alison Thewliss – backed by MPs and MSPs from Labour and the Greens – has led the campaign against them. That cross party support has been hugely important, but the behaviour of the Scottish Tories has been nothing less than contemptible.
Having repeatedly failed to speak out against this disgusting policy, Ruth Davidson then tried to hide behind her official spokesperson. And then, last week, she came out in open support of the rape clause.
She also made the suggestion that the Scottish Parliament should simply step in and pay for these benefits instead.
That was just a desperate smokescreen – an attempt to deflect attention from the Tories’ direct responsibility for this policy and hide her own blushes. The truth is that, far from standing up to her Tory colleagues, Ruth Davidson is defending them regardless of the impact on families across Scotland.
Let’s be clear, the answer to Tory cuts cannot simply be for the Scottish Government to get out the sticking plasters and patch up the Tories’ mess – using money intended for public services, while the UK Government pockets the savings from their cuts. The solution is for the Tories to scrap the rape clause and the two child policy – not just in Scotland but across the whole of the UK.
Of course, if the Tories do want Scotland to take on the responsibility then let’s see all social security powers, and all of the funding used to pay for it, transferred to the Scottish Parliament – that way we can deliver a fair and balanced social security system across the board instead of just trying to clear up the mess.
And when the Tories say these cuts are needed to help balance the books, we should never forget that in the very same budget in which they said there was no money to pay for tax credits, they found the money to cut taxes for the highest earners – a tax cut that the Scottish Tories supported north of the border as well.
Many years ago, Theresa May infamously said that people often see the Tories as the nasty party. Now that she is Prime Minister, it appears that she – and Ruth Davidson – are determined to live up to that reputation.