A Tory MSP has come under fire after appearing to suggest it was unfair Scots on benefits are free to have “as many children as they like.”
But Michelle Ballantyne has stuck by her comments, insisting that she was referring to choices working parents are forced to make over how many children they can afford - and benefits claimants must do the same.
But political opponents slammed the intervention during a Holyrood debate with Scottish Government Communities Secretary Aileen Campbell branding it “utterly reprehensible.”
Ms Campbell had quizzed the Tory MSP about the so called rape clause. This caps child benefit at two children - unless the mother shows any additional children were conceived by rape. It has prompted widespread protests.
Ms Ballantyne, a mother of six, told MSPs: “The two child limit is about fairness.
“It is fair that people on benefit cannot have as many children as they like, while people who work and pay their way and don’t claim benefit have to make decisions about the number of children they can have.
“Fairness is fairness to everybody - not to one part of the community.”
She declined to back down afterwards insisting that was not suggesting a cap on the number of children which poorer families can have - only that they should be weighing up the same financial constraints faced by working families.
But Ms Campbell hit out at the comments, claiming they “seemed to suggest that if you’re poor, you’re not allowed any more than two children.
“That view is utterly, utterly reprehensible.”
Her SNP colleague Tom Arthur added: “In my two and half years in this parliament, the contribution from Michelle Ballantyne was one of the most disgraceful speeches I have ever heard.
She added: “She should be utterly, utterly ashamed of herself.”