Midlothian Council condemns Tory MSP for benefits comment

Michelle Ballantyne MSP
Michelle Ballantyne MSP

Conservative councillors refused to back a motion calling for condemnation of comments by Scottish MSP Michelle Ballantyne in support of a two-child cap on benefits.

At a meeting of Midlothian Council on Tuesday, SNP Councillor Kelly Parry, who brought the motion, described Ms Ballantyne’s comments, made in the Scottish Parliament last month, as falling short of “any humanity”.

She urged councillors to back a motion condemning her remarks as “ignorant” of the reality facing families in the county.

However the Conservative group, in a statement read out by Councillor Janet Lay-Douglas, refused to take part in the motion, criticising their SNP colleagues for interfering in Scottish Parliament affairs instead of local issues.

Ms Ballantyne, who is a regional MSP for South Scotland which includes Midlothian, sparked an outcry in Holyrood when she defended controversial welfare reforms which limit tax credits and has been branded the “Rape Clause” after it included an exemption for children conceived as a result of rape.

Ms Ballantyne told the Scottish Parliament: “it is fair that people on benefits cannot have as many children as they like while people who work and pay their way and do not claim benefits have to make decisions about the number of children they can have.”

Councillor Perry’s motion, which was seconded by Councillor Dianne Alexander, called on the council to “consider this statement appalling and ignorant of the reality facing families living in Midlothian and South East Scotland, and recognises that people may find themselves in the situation of having more than two children for a range of reasons, including accidental pregnancy and/or an abusive or coercive partner.”

Speaking at a meeting of the council, Councillor Perry said: “I was horrified by those comments.

“As politicians we have a responsibility to use careful language, we need to hold ourselves to a higher standard and hold ourselves accountable when those standards fall short.And the remarks certainly in my opinion fall short of any humanity.”

She was backed by Councillor Alexander who compared the current cap to the situation in China when a one child per family cap was introduced in 1979.

Councillor Alexander said: “In China in 2013 it finally saw the error of its ways not morally but because the policy had such a bad effect on the makeup of society – few working age people to provide for the elderly.

“Even the Government of China has come to the realisation that every child has value.”

Councillor Lay-Douglas told the council meeting: “The Conservative group refuse to take part in this motion.

“The SNP group should be concentrating on the shortfall in budget and the affairs of Midlothian business and leave the affairs of Scottish parliament in Scottish Parliament.

“We are here to work on local government and deal with local issues.”

The motion was approved after Labour Councillors supported it in the Chamber.