#Rapeclause was one of the four most popular Twitter hashtags used by SNP MPs and MSPs in the run-up to the Scottish council elections held earlier this month.
SNP MSP Humza Yousaf tweeted about “Tory born-again Brexiters and rape-clause advocates.” Fellow SNP MSP James Dornan explained: “If you’d rather vote for the Tories than SNP, you’re a right-wing Rape Clause supporting enabler.”
(Ex-)MP Paul Monaghan tweeted: “The rape clause is beneath contempt and reveals nothing but a callous disregard for human life.” Fellow (ex-)MP Pete Wishart appealed: “Now more important than ever. Vote till you boak. Make sure the rape clause candidate is absolutely last.”
Following in the footsteps of their parliamentarians, cybernats made #rapeclause and #rapeclauseruth (i.e. Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson) central to their case for voting SNP in the council elections:
“Thursday #council17 election. A great chance to show Ruth Davidson how disgusted you are by the Rape Clause #rapeclauseruth #rapeclause. … Time Tories are punished for Rape Clause at council elections #council17 #rapeclauseruth.”
“Vote SNP for Scotland. Vote Tory for #rapeclauseruth. … Only one party stands up for Scotland and only Scotland. #VoteSNP #council17. Scots Tories controlled by #rapeclauseruth via London.”
“How dare the working poor have children! Kill them! Screeches the darling of the Tories #rapeclauseruth as she rises in the polls. … A huge success for ‘NicolaSturgeon #rapeclause local election campaign. Very well done boss. You should do that again in GE2017.”
With the general election campaign now underway, #rapeclause and #rapeclauseruth remain particularly popular hashtags for cybernats.
#Rapeclause refers to the requirement that as of April of this year victims of rape must complete a lengthy form to obtain child tax benefits for a third or subsequent child born as a result of rape.
This is an exercise in humiliation, one which forces victims of rape to relive the trauma of rape and which could cause damage to their mental health. The fact that the bulk of the eight-page form can be completed by a health professional or social worker is irrelevant.
This bureaucratic imposition on rape victims is the result of broader Tory cuts in welfare spending: As of April of this year, child tax benefits are restricted to the first two children. But exemptions apply to children born from rape (and multiple births, and adopted children).
The solution to the #rapeclause is to scrap the cap on restricting child tax benefits to the first two children. If there is no cap, there is no need for exemptions, and no need to subject rape victims to a process of bureaucratic humiliation.
There are certainly SNP parliamentarians, members, supporters and voters who are genuine in their opposition to the #rapeclause and link their campaigning against it to the demand for scrapping the cap on child tax benefits.
But the broader Scottish-nationalist campaign around the #rapeclause and the political role which it plays is of an entirely different order. It is steeped in opportunism, cynicism, hypocrisy and an irrational demonization of their political opponents.
Reviving an SNP meme from the period immediately following last year’s EU referendum, #rapeclause is used to equate Tories with Nazis and fascists in general:
“We need silent protests at every Tory meeting with #rapeclause #foodbanks #TryBrexit. Don’t let friends of fascism get elected. … The extremely low calibre of Conservatives promoting fascist policies like #rapeclause in Scotland. Vote for better and fairer.”
“#Rapeclause fans cry foul! The being (i.e. the Tory candidate) standing as a defender of fascist policy (is) scared of the humanity, integrity and decency of @AngusRobertson #SNP. … I am sick of our lying media pushing this fascist agenda. #rapeclause.”
“So it’s now a straight fight for Scotland. The SNP and Greens versus the BNP led by @ruthdavidson #rapeclause. … On the day we hear Spitting Images is making a return, #rapeclauseruth rekindles the ethos of Norman Tebbit’s jackbooted Nazi thugs.”
“France, Holland and Austria rejected far-right Nazi candidates. It’s our turn on June 8th. #ToriesOut #VoteSNP #rapeclauseruth. … #rapeclauseruth and #CantTellTheTruthMay: two of the most vile women in this country today. Hitler would be proud of either.”
Demonisation of the Tories for promoting infanticide (“How dare the working poor have children! Kill them! Screeches the darling of the Tories #rapeclauseruth.”) leads into the demonization of those deemed guilty by association.
If the #rapeclause puts the Tories beyond the pale, anyone who associates with them automatically deserves to be equally condemned and ostracised – even if the supposed ‘association’ is a fiction created by the truest followers of the SNP cult:
“So, Labour, Greens, Lib-Dems didn’t condemn this vile #rapeclause. Your Tory friend #rapeclauseruth is a disgrace. … Labour openly campaigning for the #rapeclause Conservatives in the Borders and the Highlands. This is a conspiracy.”
“With Scottish Labour cheering on #rapeclauseruth from the sidelines, what a wretched embarrassment they are. … Labour/Tory: two cheeks of the same arse. How’s that #rapeclause working out for you?”
“So now we have @kezdugdale in cahoots AGAIN with #rapeclause @ruthdavidsonmsp. Both happy to wear the Orange sash of sectarianism.”
Political critics of the SNP and its record in power can also be tarred with the same #rapeclause brush:
David Torrance, a journalist who has written articles critical of the SNP government (because that’s the kind of thing journalists do) becomes “Tory boy Torrance” who “ticks the predictable boxes to talk up #rapeclauseruth et al.”
A photograph of writer and broadcaster (and SNP critic) Muriel Gray with Tory MP David Blundell turns out to be a photo of “A #rapeclause facilitator hand in glove with a socialist #rapeclause apologist.”
And a nurse who criticised the SNP’s record on health in last weekend’s Scottish Leaders Debate was subjected to a vicious cybernat witch-hunt, including: “Ranting ‘nurse’ on #LeadersDebate is a Tory councillor’s wife – a #rapeclause supporter! How does that square with her ethics?”
#Rapeclause is also invoked in support of that favourite demand of true Scottish nationalists: a targeted consumer boycott of insufficiently patriotic businesses.
A visit by Ruth Davidson to the Express Bakery in Dumfries resulted in: “Bakery to avoid in Dumfries: Express Bakery. Product recall: These #rapeclause apologists have had their fingers in your pies.”
And a visit by Davidson to the Edinburgh Shortbread House also saw the latter added to the boycott list: “Mmmm, shortbread with added #rapeclause. … So your company supports the #rapeclause. No custom from me then.”
(Scotland, 2017: An Edinburgh-based family business which manufactures Scottish shortbread are traitors to the nation.)
For a swathe of Scottish nationalists the #rapeclause is not just yet another example of bad Tory policies. It is the essence of Britishness and the British state, and further evidence of the need for independence:
“The BritNats coalescing around the #rapeclause party. Given the collapse in Labour support, realignment of politics in Scotland almost complete. … All together to help Theresa May rape Scotland. #VoteSNP to save Scotland.”
“’Our precious union. …’ If this and #rapeclause are the best it can offer, I want no part in it. At 63 years of age, I’ve never felt so ‘foreign’! … Straightforward for anyone who doesn’t support the #rapeclause – Independence it is!”
#Rapeclause serves the same role as “Red Tories”. In 2015 the SNP used “Red Tories” to target and undermine support for Labour. In 2017, faced with a resurgence of support for the Tories, the SNP is using #rapeclause to try to stifle that resurgence.
And the SNP’s focus on the #rapeclause stinks of hypocrisy.
In August of 2013, as the debate about the 2014 referendum began to pick up steam. Alex Salmond committed the SNP to imposing a benefits cap (based on “Scottish values”) in an independent Scotland. Nicola Sturgeon was given the job of working out the details.
(This was not a specific cap on child tax benefits. It was an across-the-board benefits cap. That made it even worse.)
In the 2015 general election campaign, in which the Tories proposed the welfare ‘reforms’ which include the child tax benefit cap, Sturgeon declared that scrapping the benefits cap was not an SNP priority.
When the Tories’ welfare ‘reforms’ subsequently made their way through the Westminster legislative procedures, two SNP MPs (Hannah Bardell and Corri Wilson) sat on the Commons Public Bill Committee which scrutinised the legislation – but did not denounce the #rapeclause.
After the Tories’ legislation had become law, the SNP denied that Holyrood had the powers to not apply the cuts in Scotland. Proven wrong on this, the SNP then promised “real, credible, affordable plans” to mitigate the impact of the cuts. There is still no sign of those plans.
In fact, Holyrood has the powers not just to scrap the #rapeclause but also the two-child cap itself.
The cost of scrapping the cap over the next four years would be £195 millions. This is roughly equal to the money the SNP Holyrood government will be losing – each year, not over a period of four years – from scrapping Airport Passenger Duty.
The #rapeclause was on the statute books for over eighteen months before it came into effect. But only in the run-up to the council elections did the SNP discover that the #rapeclause was the defining feature of the Tories, all opponents of independence, and the British state itself.
And some of the cybernats so incandescent with rage at the #rapeclause clearly have a long way to go in improving their feminist credentials.
Denouncing “#rapeclause Ruthie” as “a despicable, divisive and dangerous wee witch” smacks of Tommy Sheridan’s attitude to his female political opponents. So too does another cybernat’s cultist description of Sturgeon, Davidson and Dugdale:
“Let’s summarise: A fearless leader who loves her country. A harridan who supports the heinous #rapeclause. The next ruler of Narnia.”