Scottish Tory leadership hopeful defends saying people on benefits can't have as many children as they like

James Morris
Senior news reporter, Yahoo News UK

A Scottish Tory leadership hopeful has defended past comments in which she said people on benefits cannot be allowed to have as many children as they like.

Michelle Ballantyne today said “we need a level playing field” as she addressed the remarks from 2018.

She hopes to take on Jackson Carlaw in the race to succeed Ruth Davidson, who resigned as the party’s leader last year.

It has prompted fresh scrutiny on Ms Ballantyne’s controversial statement during a debate on inequality in the Scottish Parliament.

Scottish Conservative MSP Michelle Ballantyne in the lobby of the Scottish Parliament on Tuesday after announcing she is standing for the leadership (Ken Jack/Getty Images)

She had said: “The two-child limit [introduced under the controversial Universal Credit system] 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 benefits have to make decisions about the number of children they can have.

“Fairness is fairness to everybody, not to one part of the community.”

Ms Ballantyne’s statement had sparked angry cries among MSPs, with one SNP member sat with her mouth wide open in shock.

In a BBC interview addressing the comments on Wednesday, Ms Ballantyne was unrepentant.

"What I said is that we need a level playing field. So people who are in work need to have the same opportunities as people who aren't in work."

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She went on: "You can't go to your employer and say 'I've just decided to have another baby so could I have a pay rise please’.”

Ms Ballantyne is currently trying to gather the necessary 100 signatures among party members to enter the contest.