TORY candidates are to be quizzed on whether they agree with Ruth Davidson and support the so-called “rape clause” as the issue acquires a growing role in the local elections.

The SNP and Labour both predicted the UK Government welfare change will feature heavily in hustings across the country in the run up to the May 4 council ballot.

Ms Davidson, who had hoped to harvest Unionist votes by making the election about rejecting a second referendum, faced more criticism about the rape clause from experts yesterday.

Dr Mairead Tagg, a clinical psychologist with 19 years’ experience at Glasgow Women’s Aid, accused the Scottish Tory leader of letting women down by supporting the measure.

Ms Davidson would damage her reputation “beyond redemption” if she continued to defend something that left rape victims “humiliated, degraded and feeling like they were abused all over again", Dr Tagg told the Sunday Herald.

She urged Ms Davidson, who has been under fire all week for defending the Westminster policy, to think again and “stand against this appalling cruelty”.

Accusing the Edinburgh Central MSP of adopting a "despicable position", she said: "Ruth Davidson has a responsibility to the women of Scotland to stand up for their dignity and human rights.

“It's an abrogation of her responsibility to not stand against this appalling cruelty.

“Ruth Davidson has unequivocally let down down both men and women. She has a personal responsibility in line with her duties to speak out and she has let us all down."

The “rape clause” is an exemption to a welfare rule that since April 6 has limited family tax credits to the first two children in a family, unless there are special circumstances.

Mothers who had a third or subsequent child through rape or during a coercive relationship must complete an eight-page form declaring this in order to qualify for more money.

Forms are also signed off by a “third party profession” such as a doctor, nurse, midwife, social worker or specialist from a sexual assault referral centre.

In all cases, mothers are required to name children born from rape to get extra benefit.

"What child wants to have the stigma of being identified as the result of rape? It's a despicable policy," Dr Tagg said.

Sandy Brindley, national coordinator of Rape Crisis Scotland, stopped short of attacking Ms Davidson directly, but said all politicians should "do all they can to get Westminster to reverse the policy", adding: "It's an acute issue of harm to rape survivors and is a harmful policy."

It is understood some rape support charities may now refuse to countersign the child tax credit forms in a bid to scuttle the policy, which was first exposed by SNP MP Alison Thewliss.

SNP MSP Christina McKelvie, whose motion condemning the “barbaric” clause and “the cruel and callous welfare reforms of the Conservative Government” has received enough cross party support to get a Holyrood debate, predicted a grilling for Tory candidates from supporters of all other parties.

She said: “I would suspect that hustings are going to be very uncomfortable places for Conservatives over the next two or three weeks.

“The thing for me is not just the rape clause, it’s the two-child limit. I think it’s bonkers.

“There’s no other country in the world doing this. Even China’s dumped its one-child policy.”

A Scottish Labour source said: “The Tory brand has become toxic again.

“Many people at hustings will want to quiz their local Tory candidates to find out what they have to say about the rape clause.

“Do they agree with Ruth Davidson and support it, or are they brave enough to condemn it?”

Scottish LibDem Caron Lindsay said the policy "pushes children into poverty and devalues women".

A Scottish Conservative spokesperson said: "We support these exemptions but we also believe there is an obligation on the Government to ensure that these cases are dealt with all due care and attention."