RUTH Davidson has been met with chants of “shame” in the Holyrood chamber, after she refused to condemn the so-called welfare “rape clause”

It followed Nicola Sturgeon challenging the Scottish Tory leader over the policy in an angry session of First Minister’s Questions.

However Ms Sturgeon’s spokesman later said the SNP Government would not use its own powers to mitigate the policy, saying it didn’t want to let the UK Government “off the hook”.

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He denied Scottish ministers were keeping the issue alive in order to make political capital, and rejected a comparison with previous action to mitigate the “bedroom tax” in Scotland.

The “rape clause” refers to a welfare measure introduced in April 6 which limits all child tax credit to the first two children in a family, except under certain circumstances.

Mothers whose third or subsequent child is born as a result of rape or during a coercive relationship must complete an eight-page form to qualify for extra money.

In doing so, they must name any child born of rape, and have the form co-signed by a health care professional or specialist in sexual assaults.

Ms Davidson has previously defended the policy, which campaigners describe as “barbaric”.

In recent days, she has softened her position, calling on the SNP to use Holyrood powers to offset the measure by topping up tax credits, perhaps through a “large families supplement”, even saying Tory MSPs would consider supporting such a measure.

As campaigners against the clause staged a protest outside Holyrood, Ms Sturgeon cited it as an example of bad Tory policy, and said far worse would follow if the Tories were returned “unfettered and out-of-control” after the election with a bigger majority.

She said: “I will give Ruth Davidson a chance to do what she has shamefully refused to do so far. Do not pass the buck. Tell the chamber and tell Scotland straight: do you support the rape clause in principle, or do you, like me, think it is utterly abhorrent? Answer the question.”

There were cries of “shame, shame” from MSPs in other parties when Ms Davidson responded: “If the First Minister does not like the two-child tax policy, she can change it.”

Ms Sturgeon replied: “Shame - shame on Ruth Davidson and shame on the Conservatives. We have just seen the true colours of Ruth Davidson and the Conservatives.

“Given the opportunity to stand up and clearly join others in the chamber to say that the rape clause - a clause that forces a woman to prove that she has been raped before claiming benefits for her children - is morally and in principle wrong, Ruth Davidson refuses to do so.

"That is utterly shameful."

Ms Davidson urged the First Minister to distance herself from the “negative trash” of SNP MSP Joan McAlpine, who this week wrote in a newspaper that living in the UK under a Tory government would be “hell on earth" and “eternal damnation in a bottomless pit of austerity”.

The Tory leader said: “The truth is that the First Minister is always happier complaining about the UK Government than she is doing anything herself. The way that the SNP is readying itself to pour negativity on this country at this election is shameful.”

Scottish LibDem leader Willie Rennie demanded Ms Sturgeon state her party’s position on the EU in its election manifesto, claiming her SNP leader Angus Robertson had “struggled" to explain it on the radio earlier it in the week.

The LibDems believe the SNP are backsliding on full EU membership after Brexit in case it alienates their own Brexit-voting supporters, and jeopardises a vote for independence.

Ms Sturgeon said the SNP policy was “absolutely clear, we want Scotland to remain members of the EU,” but did not say what it would be after Brexit or what her manifesto world say.

“If the policy is that clear, why can't she just say it's going to be in the manifesto? She's dodging just like Angus yesterday,” he said.