The Tory Rape Clause and the Descent of Scottish Politics

It seems to be such an obvious wrong. One so obvious that when our First Minister spoke of it in New York, there were gasps of horror. It’s a subject that evokes strong passions, a sense of injustice and anger at the cold and callous Tories.   Now in my good old days I was not averse to a bit of Tory bashing, where the word ‘Tory’ was clearly synonymous with e006EF7CE00000258-4366230-image-m-7_1490911027616vil.   We all just knew that. Life was so simple. On the one side were the Dark Forces of ‘Thatcher, Thatcher, Milk snatcher’, on the other were the obviously enlightened forces of progress standing up for the poor, defending the world against Evil.   I even had the t-shirt-  ‘say it with flowers, send Maggie a triffid’!   Oh what joyous and simple days!….it was a black and white world – in which only the immature and the wilfully blind could live for long.

I have been reminded of those days in recent weeks. There seems to be an obvious clear black and white issue – one in which right and wrong are self-evident. On the one side is the heartless, cold and callous Nasty Party, who are demanding that women who have been raped should prove it in order to get child benefit. On the other are the outraged, compassionate, defenders of women’s rights and poor children. It’s a no brainer.   Or is it?

I am always troubled when an issue is defined in such emotive black and white terms. I suspect many have already decided what is the absolute right and wrong and regard anyone who dares to question, or to suggest that it is more complex, as somehow inhumane and on the side of the demons.   A few weeks ago I got involved in a wee Twitter spate with some who accused me of siding with the ‘Rape Clause Tories’, although our discussion was not about that. I was then asked, what I thought of it. On the surface I thought of course that the Tories were wrong, but then I decided that being on the surface was not good enough, and that it was time to do some thinking and digging for myself. So I refused to answer until I actually had some information – other than the propaganda soundbites on social media.   It has been a fascinating study that leads me to the following summary conclusion.

In the summer budget of 2015 the Tory government announced that tax credits, whereby state aid is claimed for low wage earners with children would only apply to the first two children.  There are some caveats on this policy. It does not apply retrospectively but only to a third child born after 7th April 2017.  And it does not affect child and other benefits. Nonetheless it is going to mean a significant loss of income for those who choose to have larger families but don’t have the means to support them.

This could be a brutal policy without exemptions. And so the government decided that one of the exemptions would be if a woman was raped and had a third child. The government decided quite rightly that this would not be fair. But what then would prevent anyone claiming that their 3rd, 4th and 5th children were as a result of rape? So instead of simply self-declaring; the process is that a third party professional such as a GP would assist and complete a form which would not require the women to report it to the police or directly to the HMRC. The Department of Work and Pensions has insisted that all women affected will be offered third party support from experienced professionals.

The rape exemption, rather than being an attempt to humiliate, punish or attack a rape victim, is in fact an attempt to offer a compassionate exemption to the two-child policy. Whether it works or is wise is another issue.

Therefore the key question is whether the two-child policy is itself moral? And that is not as straightforward as we might suppose. As both the UK and Scottish governments frequently point out, there is a limited pot of money. It is the job of government to make the often-difficult decisions of how that money is to be spread.  There is a case that can be argued for child tax credits with no limits on the number of children – but it is not necessarily immoral to suggest that the state subsidising a family of seven who can’t afford to provide for their own, is always a good idea.   The issues are complex. And in a messed up confused world we cannot always have simplistic policies that are the solution to everything.

In the simplistic Nirvana of our liberal progressives, all human beings are essentially good (apart perhaps from a few religious Neanderthals) and no one would ever lie in order to get benefits.   Why should any woman who has been raped have to prove it in order to get a benefit? For the same reason that any woman who wants her assailant to be prosecuted has to testify against them. There has to be a degree of proof. A person cannot be convicted just on the accusation of someone else. Although of course it is qualitatively different, the argument stills stand for the two-child policy.  If the policy stands, a woman cannot just receive benefit by claiming rape, without providing some evidence. Cue outrage. But it is a simple and logical fact. Now how that policy is carried out is very important. Compassion and understanding must not be replaced by the cold, bureaucratic hands of the form fillers.

So, that’s the policy and that’s the context. Whether you agree with it or not, a calmer more rational approach enables us to understand that the problem is far more complex than good vs. evil.   I may be overoptimistic but surely our politicians can go to a deeper level and learn more nuanced thinking? Although having watched the Scottish Parliament debate this afternoon I am not so confident.

There are two areas in particular that cause me great concern.

Firstly the issue of hypocrisy.

If the members of the Scottish Parliament feel so strongly that this policy is evil, abusive and attacking rape victims, and they have the means to do something about it, then they are surely morally obliged to do so?   There are issues that it is easy for the Scottish Parliament to shout about – issues where they have no responsibility. Trident for example. But despite protestations otherwise, this is not one of those issues.

The Scottish government now as new powers in the Scotland Act which would allow a significant amount of welfare spending to be devolved to the Scottish Parliament. As of this year. But in a recent meeting between the Scottish and UK governments the Scottish TELEMMGLPICT000124701154-large_trans_NvBQzQNjv4BqcM9aBJczjGu2JtrWg8AaNebpMG9uWgcnc3MvHmUFhjAgovernment asked for those powers NOT to be handed over until 2020.   Just take a deep breath and consider the implications of that. The Scottish government which is constantly (and in my view rightly) asking for more powers to be handed over from Westminster, when offered significant powers is asking for a delay. They clearly have time to organise another Independence Referendum and campaign on behalf of the EU – but taking control over some welfare services is just too much. I think the priorities of our government are being clearly laid out.

And again what has astonished me are the number of politicians who will argue that it is not the job of the Scottish government to mitigate Tory cuts (I would have thought that was exactly one of the jobs of the Scottish government!) or that they don’t have the power to change tax or universal credit.   But that is sophistry. They do have the power to top up tax credits or create an entirely new benefit to mitigate the effects of the two-child policy, if they wish to do so. It means that the money will have to come from elsewhere, other budgets and priorities or new taxation. Again the argument is made, but why should money come from elsewhere? To which the only response is – this is what proper grown up government looks like. You have to make decisions and you cannot give everyone everything they want, or every thing you might want. But if you are totally convinced that the so called ‘rape clause’ or the two child policy is so immoral that you have to weep and wail in public over it, then it is nothing but hypocritical virtue signalling if you do nothing about it when you have the ability to do so.

Secondly the use of Rape as a Political Weapon

I would disagree with Ruth Davidson on many things.   But I respect her as a political leader (as I do others of whatever party).   The way that the issue of rape is being cynically used to hound Ruth Davidson is a new low in Scottish politics.  From the social media mobs to the emotional blackmail and grandstanding in the Scottish Parliament this Ruth+Davidson+KxcwIbqX1c-mafternoon. I was disgusted at that debate in many ways, but not least by the attempt to intimidate and bully Davidson. I have no quibble with those who from the beginning have fought a campaign against this, but those who have jumped on the bandwagon in the past month should be ashamed of themselves.   Rape is a serious issue. Its causes, prevention and punishment should be treated seriously and not used as a political punchbag.  Some strategist clearly thought it was a good idea to try and get ‘the Tory Rape Clause’ as a meme parroted across traditional and social media.  They may have thought it genius – but it is an evil genius.  The attempt to equate the Tories with support of rape (and although it will be protested this is not what is actually being said – the word association is deliberate and will be believed) – is one of the lowest and most desperate measures I have seen in Scottish politics.   This tweet from Pete Wishart, who not only represents Scotland in Westminster but also is the Shadow SNP leader in the house and the chair of the Scottish Affairs Select Committee, shows the gutter level that this debate has descended to.  Yes I know its ‘chewing the fat’ style humour but to actually call someone the ‘rape clause candidate’ is disgusting.

pete_wishart_tweet

I have read numerous amounts about this in the past few days – but very little goes beyond the shallow tribalistic soundbites. I am not convinced about the two-child benefit, nor am I confident about how the rape clause will be administered.  But if you are going to argue against it try to provide some evidence and avoid both the hypocrisy, the virtue-signalling and the use of rape as a political weapon.

I am writing this in hospital – (and I know I should not be – except I have to wile away the hours somehow and this is my now my 10th day here!). I am deeply concerned about the woman who fears the ‘rape clause’ and the child in a large family born in poverty. I am also deeply concerned at the deterioration I notice in the NHS and in education.  I watch search-2the frustrations of staff, the chronic shortages (as I write I am waiting to be ‘boarded’ out yet again to another ward), and the fears of some of the poor who are rightly concerned about inadequate support when they go home. If only the SNP had paid as much attention to their own Alex Neill’s radical ideas on the NHS, as they have to attacking Ruth Davidson!  Perhaps then we could have some grown up politics.

I too could tell dozens of emotive stories of how people are being harmed by the direction our society is taking.  I’m sick of all the grandstanding, virtue signalling and mega-politics.   Is it too much to ask that our governors get on with governing? That they use whatever power they have, not to save the world, nor to virtue signal about themselves, but simply as far as they are able to ensure that our children are educated, our sick are cared for and our poor given justice and equal opportunities? The rest is just fluff and school ground politics – in whatever political colour it comes.

Footnote:  Since posting this I have had a lot of correspondence.  Can I just stress that in this article I am not so much concerned with the debate itself (should there be a two child policy and should there be a rape exemption) but rather the manner in which it is being conducted and the use of rape as a political weapon.  It has actually been very helpful to get intelligent and thoughtful posts from people who disagree with the policy, from those who agree, and from those who don’t know.  Would that the whole debate was conducted in such a manner!

 

 

 

 

 

 


41 thoughts on “The Tory Rape Clause and the Descent of Scottish Politics

  1. Thank you very much for a balanced and nuanced look at this issue. Politics sometimes has to manage difficult situations which are not nice to talk about unless everyone can be grown up and endeavour to make the best decisions for the people concerned, namely the mothers and the children who will ultimately be the recipients of the policies as legislated. It is a shame that something that requires sensitivity has descended into party rivalry and point scoring shouting matches at Holyrood. One wonders; where’s the humanity, where’s the compassion.

  2. I have never understood the reasoning behind tax credits. Why take away people’s money, in the form of tax, and then give it back, as tax credits?

    Surely it would be simpler, and cheaper to administrate, to not take the money away in the first place?

    1. You would think that but it would be massively complicated to administer. It was hard enough for HMRC to figure who was living in Scotland for the new tax codes never mind anything as complicated as that. What should be happening is the government should be making work pay. Make minimum wage higher so people can afford to eat and have as many kids as they want. Then for those who are struggling the pot of money will be there. There always seems with government to cut where it hurts most. The easy target. Remove the benefits from the poor who can’t fight back. Meanwhile billions of pounds of tax is avoided/ not collected from wealthy corporations and individuals. Billions is wasted on overpayments and mistakes just issuing benefits in the first place. If they got that right we could give 3rd and 4th children tax credits. But no. Hit the people who already have nothing.

      1. Agree that a simpler system that doesn’t transfer money round is better. An acceleration of raising the tax threshold would be part of this

  3. Thank you for this post. It is a fair and reasonable reflection on this bill.

    On Tue, Apr 25, 2017 at 8:42 PM, THE BLOG OF DAVID ROBERTSON wrote:

    > theweeflea posted: “It seems to be such an obvious wrong. One so obvious > that when our First Minister spoke of it in New York, there were gasps of > horror. It’s a subject that evokes strong passions, a sense of injustice > and anger at the cold and callous Tories. Now in my g” >

  4. I started reading this without paying attention to who wrote it, but by the time i was halfway though, I was so impressed i scrolled back up to check & I was not at all surprised to see Mr Robertson. Yet again a balanced, compassionate, intelligent look at Scottish politics.

    Like many Scots, I disliked the Tories immensely!
    But for me (ex-lifelong SNP voter) the more the SNP behave like aggressive sleekit dictators the more reasonable they make the Tories sound. Named person being a prime example.

    Sturgeon can call IndyRef until she is blue in the face. They have no chance. I agree wi Jim Sillars, they’ve shot themsel in the foot (then reloaded & shot themsel in the other foot!)
    IndyRef? Can someone please explain to the SNP what the word independence means? Cause i dont think they know!
    Plus if they can lose a die hard like me, they have big problems.
    You know its bad when even their own party refuse to vote for them! (Sillars is bang on!)

    I wont be voting for the SNP again, least not until they start listening to the people that pay their well over inflated wages & stop wi the underhand bullyboy tactics, which is unacceptable at the best of times, But when used against the board of the CSA inquiry?
    Disgraceful & utterly shameful.
    Is that really the type of people we want runnjng the county? No me.

    As for the rape clause, I don’t know enough about it to have an educated opinion. But thanks to The Wee Flea, I know more than i did 10 mins ago!
    So many thanks,
    It was an absolute a pleasure to read.

  5. Until people can be confident they will have a regular and generous income for at least 20 years ahead, the logic of this policy is that *nobody* without permanent private “independent means” (in the Victorian phrase) should have more than 2 children. It’s the Chinese population-reduction policy, but enacted by economic rather than physical force – an approach common to many recent Right-wing initiatives for achieving ends previously only attempted in direct and publicly unacceptable ways by openly repressive régimes.
    It is also intrinsically discriminatory against followers of those religions that believe all lives should be welcomed – but then Catholics and Muslims have always been regarded as politically suspect and covert reduction of their numbers will not be unwelcome to some: dodgy in both principle and (intended) operation.
    On which word I’m glad to return to wishing you a speedy and full recovery and continuing blessings on your ministry.

  6. Thanks, I didn’t realise the SNP had asked for such a long delay to new powers. Makes no sense if they are into more powers for Scotland. The SNP needs an enemy to rally the troops and the Tories are the obvious choice.

  7. This is sensible, but my view would depend on what the form is actually like. The stats on false claims of rape would suggest women ARE very unlikely to lie about it, especially when you note some accusations marked as false may have been true (ie. an accusation made by a woman in an ongoing abusive relationship who later withdrew the accusation). It is getting closer to rape apology to suggest women may lie about rape, they seldom do.

    Even a simple tickbox would be perfectly adequate in my view, and if that didn’t appear to work a higher requirement for proof could be introduced.

  8. I pan my a*se in on a building site for 40-50 hours a week, which gives me a rather simplistic view of all this: why on earth should any of my hard labour go towards supporting families that can’t afford to support themselves? And if society makes the collective decision that such families *should* be supported (which it has), why is it then wrong for me, via my elected representatives, to expect those on the receiving end of my largesse to have to answer any questions, regardless of how intrusive, in order to make a claim on a share of my labour? It’s the least I should be able to demand, and yet, instead of any gratitude, all I hear in is a tidal wave of whining. The politicians complaining about this should watch what they’re doing, as there is no surer way to drive wedges between the working class and the non-working poor, and drive the former into the arms of the Conservative Party – which is *exactly* what happened in the 1980s.

    1. I totally agree with you, while acknowledging we need a benefit system, why should the working man, who 1, can’t afford a spare room (so called bedroom tax) and 2, only have the amount of children they know they can afford. I believe that if the Tories said the sky was gone, the SNP would say it was grey.

  9. Thanks again David for a balanced article. I too found the debate, such of it as I saw, dispiriting what with the hypocrisy and virtue signaling. (I forget of which politician it was said that “he could never see a belt without hitting below it” – there is an election on and it appears all is fair in electioneering). But in addition and in the debate and discussion the underlying assumption of many that child tax credits, child allowance or whatever it is called nowadays are inalienable rights, does in my mind undermine the idea that each should be responsible for his or her own actions. I have a certain sympathy with the American bumper sticker “if you can’t feed them, don’t breed them”. It was, and even now remains, my responsibility to support my family. I didn’t turn down child allowances when available, or object when #1 arrived a week before the due date of 6 April gaining a full year’s allowance, but the responsibility is mine.

    BTW the service from St Peter’s was a blessing – I’ll get the sermon tjhis evening. I must try and get there some time (when I am not working to support my family).

  10. I thought at first glance that the Table of Candidates was a spoof. As it is, it stands as a sort of monument to the “four legs good, two legs bad” mentality that gives politics a bad name. It makes Donald Trump seem almost statesmanlike by comparison. And Pete Wishart can’t spell “absolutely”.

  11. If they want to disincentivise large families, why don’t they just withdraw the non-means tested Child Benefit for third and subsequent children instead? Tax Credits top up to a minimum income for the benefit of the child, not as a moral view of the whether the parent is deserving or not.

    1. When I was born there was no Child Benefit *until* you had a second or subsequent child – and it was paid to the mother, usually as her sole income outwith a (possibly feckless or violent) husband’s reach. But then in those days the government and employers had a decimated working population to replace and even then they needed migrants within a very few years because the labour force couldn’t “breed” fast enough.

      (A telling expression – when you view people as livestock you are on the way to disregarding their lives.)

      To cut back Child Benefit for 3+ now the proposers would have to admit that universal population control was the object and deal with the sort of flak they got a few years ago half heartedly removing CB from even the most obviously affluent. Much safer politically to ensure that only “those people” are economically neutered, despite the obvious fact that bad heredity or lack of work ethic are not particularly restricted to the slums.

      And may God spare me the “I work so I shouldn’t have to carry others” brigade, who will change their mind fast enough if a girder falls on them the wrong way. I seem to remember a similarly-minded person who thought he could just build himself “larger barns”…

  12. Thank you very much for your article David, it has clarified a lot for me. Just to say, I would have preferred New Cumnock rather than New York as the place to launch a campaign against injustices in Scotland. As you say, too much grandstanding on both sides of this debate.

  13. For the SNP to wilfully misrepresent their political adversary in this way, shows a complete absence of morality. Misrepresentation is simply a form of lying. When you are prepared to lie against your political adversary, it says more about your own lack of morality than theirs.

    Many thanks for cutting away the distortion from this so-called ‘Tory Rape Clause.’ The term itself is a simple form of Pavlovian Conditioning, associating Conservatives with a disgusting and vile violation of humanity.

    It is such a low life form of propaganda that even the Nazi Party may have thought twice about using it.

    You will not begin to understand the manifest evil at work here until you recognise the profound anti-Christian nature of our political life here in the West, where we are daily assaulted by a form of poisonous thought control known as Cultural Marxism.

    Here is a 7 minute you tube clip which summarises the inversion of reality being realised upon our society.

    God Bless you David and may the Holy Spirit protect you and your family at al times.

  14. “Should there be a 2 child policy”? My great grandmother had 20 children beginning at the end of the 19th century. My grandmother had 4, two of whom had to be adopted and one was born after a hasty marriage. This was all before the NHS & modern social services, and importantly when effective free contraception wasn’t available. Both women had very hard lives. My mother was able to plan to have the number of children she and my father wanted because of the availability of contraception and the only benefit they received was universal child benefit.

    I enjoyed growing up in a family of 4 children but when jobs took us hundreds of miles from a family support network and money was tight we had to decide to have only 2 children. That was the size of family we could financially support with just universal child benefit. It was also, given the situation, the best size when we examined our practical, emotional & psychological resources. Bringing up children well in modern society is far more demanding in so many more ways than just the financial aspect.

    Contraception has moved on even further now in the 21st century. It is a real choice now for women to live as they choose while removing the risk of conception. There is also the morning after pill. There is also the fact that men can and should take responsibility for not contributing to unplanned pregnancies.

    For assisted conception (test tube babies) the importance of being able to have children is recognised in our NHS but the fact that NHS resources in general are finite means this is rationed. Yes, you can have free assistance to have a family, but how many times you can do this and how many children you can have is limited.

    So I do think it’s worth asking the question; should there be a 2 child policy?
    When couples or individuals who are not in receipt of benefits have to decide how many children they can financially, practically and emotionally support, for some of them this means having to choose fewer children than they would like to have.
    So I do question why some commentators say that the state should finance people receiving benefits who choose to have limitless numbers of children and that they are entitled to be fully supported financially & with other public services in doing so.

    (I’ve deliberately not addressed the so called ‘rape clause’ in my comments but I would like to note that the actual legislation covers not just rape but births as a result of abusive or coercive relationships and a multiple pregnancy.
    Also some instances of adoption etc)

  15. I worked in the benefit agency (Now DWP) for 15 years ,
    It was a bit of an eye opener to my then Left wing self
    I am afraid a small minority would have no qualms about lying to get any additional state benefits , even lying that their parent living in England has died to get grants to travel to arrange funerals , such lies although an exception , were not one off occurrences , so in my opinion there needs to some senstively handled checks
    The system was unfair , in that working and tax paying families , with incomes a little above the tax credit threshold but by no means wealthy, have had to plan their children as to whether they can afford them and often had to stop at one or two children , whilst those on welfare have been given extra money for each child , paid for by said tax payer

  16. Why 2? Why not 1 like China? Or even none at all, as was not so long ago (G K Chesterton was particularly eloquent on the trend for “eradicating poverty” by eradicating the poor) legally inflicted in quite civilised countries on the “unfit”? One series of “Who Do You Think You Are” will put you straight on the unforeseeable vicissitudes and lucky breaks that repeatedly take families up and down the social scale during a child’s lifetime. The ONLY way to avoid this law is for nobody to risk having more than the legally permitted number of offspring at all – just in case at some time in the next two decades a nasty accident or unexpected illness exhausts their “prudent” insurance and reserves and those of all their family (what family, if nobody has any?) to put them at the mercy of our fellow humans – in whose hands an all-provident God has unaccountably left us rather than let us off the chore of communal living. It is hardly a liberation to enable women to avoid childbearing if it is to be replaced by an enforced obligation to do so.

    It also ignores that a woman can be (and often is) an excellent mother with very few otherwise “marketable” skills – leading to the daft situation where two mothers bringing up each others’ children and exchanging Government “childcare money” are “economic assets” but the same two bringing up their own with the same money are an economic burden!

    No decent Conservative law should poke its nose into how and when a woman had sex – our bodies are not Government property and what they pay out is no more charity than any other insurance claim. Even children raised on benefits can grow up to be honest and even entrepreneurial citizens, and not all children of the rich avoid notice by the smellier side of the Press. Or have we decided to only keep that bit of the Bible where children are punished to the generations for their parents’ (presumed solely on the basis of low income!) sins?

    1. You are misunderstanding. This is not a one or two child policy which tells women how many children they can have. It is the government saying that they will only provide child tax credits for the first two children – except for some exceptions. That is not dictating how many children women can have. It is saying how many the state (ie all of us) will be willing to support.

      1. Economic coercion is still coercion: this law effectively mandates abortion for any woman conceiving a third child who cannot guarantee her personal independent income for the next twenty years. Or is she supposed to throw it out to starve when anything goes wrong?

        It’s related to my other two standing rants: about “woman’s choice”, which is too often Hobson’s in our current child-averse society – and “right to die”, where the so called free choice will be heavily (and not accidentally) skewed by the coming assault on pensions and withdrawal of NHS treatment.

        Some of the best – and even entrepreneurial – citizens I know were brought up wholly or partly on benefits: a good thing I grew out of believing it couldn’t happen as so many seem to do when insisting they are “too menny” (see Hardy for that quote) and should never have been born.

      2. Karen – this law does not ‘effectively mandate abortion’. Although I do wish that those who make so much noise about this would make as much noise about abortion – which is far more harmful to children. Your hyperbole does not work. Child tax credit is a relatively new concept – child benefit will continue. The issues are far more complex than the rhetoric so often suggests.

  17. David: To ban abortion (of which I am by no means a fan) while insisting no existing child with two siblings will be enabled to survive if its parents unexpectedly fall on hard times, presents such a determined cognitive dissonance I can’t believe I’m reading it. Refusing to feed or shelter a born child is only aesthetically different from killing an unborn one.

    You could ONLY make such a rule fair if at the time of deciding all the information for 20 years down the line was available to the decision maker. Which is why it’s no “hyperbole” to say it constitutes a real pressure towards abortion for any woman, in this age of precarious employment, who already has two children and finds herself unexpectedly carrying a third. And that’s before you even get within a shout of the infamous “rape clause”…

    1. Karen – it doesn’t help to exaggerate or to misrepresent – who is ‘insisting no existing child with two siblings will be enabled to survive’? We are talking here about child tax credits – which have only been in existence a few years. We are not talking about child benefit. The trouble is that if you think the State has to provide for every child, rather than the parents, then you have to show where the State can get the money. Its all very well for middle class liberals (I am not accusing you of being such) to go on about helping the poor without realising what they are talking about or indeed the hard they could be doing. I know plenty working class people who work hard, scrape and save for their children, who are disgusted that their feckless neighbour who can’t be bothered providing for his own kids, continues to have as many as he wants because ‘the state will provide’. As for the ‘infamous rape clause’ – did you read the article? It is intended to show compassion to a woman who, through no fault of her own, finds herself with more than two children. Its not as black and white (or as extreme) as you are making out.

      1. The choice is not between “the State providing for every child” (that, as you observe, is the universal Child Benefit, so that pass has already been sold) and sturdy independence, but more like treating tax as a compulsory savings fund where the family as a whole (and a nation is only a family scaled up) pay in during good times and draw on it in the bad. My self-employed relations didn’t suddenly morph from “striver” to “scrounger” when some cynical large customer chose to delay or default on an honestly-earned debt – although the shame they felt in such difficult periods, and the fact my father once preferred to commit a crime (as he admitted just before his death) rather than even ask his own relations for help, suggests that pride in “self-sufficiency” is not necessarily a Christian virtue.

        As to our refusing to help feed “other people’s kids” – that betrays an intrinsically eugenic assumption that no child thus invested in can ever grow up to be a decent productive citizen who repays the debt incurred – and a nasty spirit of resentment in response to that belief. If I had been a third child brought up being told the society I live in thinks I shouldn’t exist, and that my siblings and myself were sharing two children’s food and clothes round three because I did? I don’t think growing up to get an honest job and help others would be my most natural response.

        I consider today’s set reading in my Lectionary (the only story reported by all four Evangelists) and wonder how short the chapter would be if a certain small boy had instead stamped his foot and shouted “Oi! That’s MY lunch!”?

      2. Its the difference between sharing and state enforced poverty. We now live in a society where to give just one example a woman who has not worked for 30 years finds herself in the impossible position of having to get a job that would pay £25,000 before she would get the equivalent to the benefit she is on. And I find it difficult to believe that 25% of people in Glasgow and 20% in Dundee are actually disabled! Of course there are checks and balances – but the fact is that our current welfare system in not fit for purpose and will implode. The idea of having food banks in Scotland in the 21st Century is appalling.

      3. The State is involved for the same reason God let us have divorce: “because of the hardness of [our] hearts”. We gladly throw our money at “sexy” campaigns or pretty children in need or sick dogs or donkeys – but tell the unappealing, foreign, ugly or disabled “You shouldn’t have been born” and the old “People are becoming far too old…” It’s bad enough bearing the burdens of misfortune without having to compete in a “misery market” as if it were some kind of devilish X-factor where only the attractive and sympathetic and morally unstained get to survive.

        I do find it passing strange how we rage in rebellion against “the State” and legitimate authority – having presumably decided that St Paul was having an off day when he wrote Romans 13 – while happily selling ourselves to all the other powers of this world for new toys to brandish in the face of our (suitably awed and chastened) neighbours. And refuse, in the face of our Lord’s direct command, to give up the irresistible sweet of judging others *and* their children to the nth generation and deciding for ourselves who is (or more importantly, ISN’T) their neighbour.

        It is my observation that *all* humans are prone to deny God ownership and control of some part of their lives and cling to it themselves: the Left say “I’ll help the poor but You can’t tell me what to do with MY body!” while the Right say “I’ll control my body (and those of my wives and daughters) – but keep Your hands out of my pockets!”.
        In that other unexpectedly dense and too well-known Bible story of the wasteful son, there is more than one family member seen thinking of their Father’s property “Why are you squandering [MY future inheritance!] on “this son of YOURS”?” as already their own.

        May a merciful God save us from our own sins as well as “those people” from theirs. And I’m pleased to see you making further posts as it suggests your recovery is going prosperously.

      4. And just a quick PS to hope your recovery is still proceeding well – don’t let the tone of debate, which is necessarily to some extent dictated by the nastier side of the issue, lead you to think there’s any underlying animosity. I normally read your posts with admiration and pleasure, even where I’m not wholly in agreement!

  18. I appreciate the tone in which you’ve written this blog and the effort to take some of the more poisonous tone out of the debate – and I shall try to respond in kind. But it would be fair to say I don’t agree with this, at all.

    Firstly, I don’t think you’re giving people much credit, you seem to be assuming that we’ve just heard the term ‘rape clause’ and have given it no further thought. I can’t say that’s not true of anyone, but it’s certainly not true of either myself or large sections of long-standing opposition to this policy, which I was aware of before it acquired its rather unpleasant appellation. The strength of our opposition to it is because of the policy on its own merits, not because we don’t get it. Your analogy of criminal trials, to my mind, only highlights the reasons for it and digs deeper into the same hole – speak to any woman who has had to go through proving their rape in a criminal context and it’s very easy to understand why we have such a huge problem with under-reporting and under-prosecution of the rime. The problem of how we balance that with the rights of the accused is a thorny one which society has not yet solved – but it is at least possible to see where the problem lies and why the issue of “proof” is necessary.

    That isn’t the case, with claiming benefit. The proof has become required only because of a political choice which has not come about through any imperative that is remotely analogous to the rights of a criminal accused. I entirely understand that the exemption was designed to help, and there’s a certain irony in that (if they’d not bothered with it at all maybe the publicity would have been less bad), but that’s neither here nor there. It’s simply not acceptable to put women through that process and that humiliation. Even if I were to grant that it were well-intentioned it would not make it so, and if your policy requires it you need to go back to the drawing board. Because this is not, as it seems to have been considered in some quarters, some unfortunate detail or side effect of an otherwise sound policy, it is central to it. The policy was always going to have a disproportionate impact on women and this is only one of the ways in which that manifests itself.

    I also have to address – “Again the argument is made, but why should money come from elsewhere? To which the only response is – this is what proper grown up government looks like.”
    This would be true if the Scottish government were independent or fully devolved, but is highly disingenuous, in the current scenario, because we don’t have a full government with respect to welfare. It – and its budgets – are reserved to Westminster. When cuts and savings are made, the money – including that which would have been spent in devolved areas – goes back into the Westminster budget and is not devolved for those other administrations to make their choice with. To make such cuts and challenge those areas from other budgets would just amount to a roundabout way of cutting Scottish funding, of making them cover more things without any increase in the funding to do so. That’s a precedent I certainly wouldn’t want to set, not least because I don’t believe it would end there.

    (In any case, SNP do not only oppose this in Scotland, they oppose it throughout the UK, and Alison Thewliss in particular has been active in campaigning against it at UK level. To suggest they should simply mitigate the policy in Scotland rather than attack it at every level is to invite them to indulge in the same parochialism with which they are, on the other hand, continually accusing them.)

    So yeah. Sorry, longer post than I’d intended. I’d agree some of the coverage has been poor, but I don’t agree that can be laid at the door of the non-Tory parliamentary parties. Watch Kezia Dugdale’s speech on it, for example. The level and strength of opposition is at the policy on its own terms, not on some imagined monster cooked up by media to score political points.

    1. Gavin,

      Thanks for your post – very helpful. I wish I could respond in the detail it deserves but I am still in recuperating mode!

      My understanding is that when this clause was initially proposed (in response to the view that it was unfair that a child involuntarily conceived should not get child tax credit) it was welcomed even by people such as Mhairi Black on the Commons committee. The issue as you acknowledge is far more complex.

      The Scottish Parliament (as I point out in the article) does have the power to deal with this – it has been devolved complete with £2.9 billion of welfare money. There is also the possibility of raising taxes. It is estimated that to scrap the two child policy (the only way this could be done) would cost £200 million – thats less than the amount of money the Scottish government are using to subsidise EU students. If this is so evil then they can deal with it.

      I saw Kezia’s speech – I’m afraid it just registered with me as emotion substituting for policy and answers. The Labour party nationally were not initially opposed to this. I don’t think the media have cooked this up – I think its the SNP using social media taking an opportunity to attack Ruth Davidson – thats’ what disgusts me about it. This was decided two years ago – why so little said about it until now? And why so little actual action being proposed….?

  19. Providing a financial incentive for a mother to falsely allege rape on the part of a father isn’t a good idea either. It hardly sits neatly alongside the Public Sector Equality Duty, to have due regard to the need to foster good relations between men and women.

    Providing a financial incentive for a mother to want an abortion isn’t a good idea either.

    What about paternal birth control fraud? The Sexual Offences Act 2003 s76(2)(a) nullifies consent in such cases for criminal purposes, but what about the present legal context?

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