A WOMAN who had a child after being raped may well have killed herself if forced to disclose her ordeal by the welfare “rape clause”, MSPs have heard in a dramatic Holyrood debate.

Reading an email from the victim, Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale urged Tory MSPs to heed the “heart-breaking” testimony and disown the UK Government policy.

Holyrood listened in silence as Ms Dugdale said the woman never wanted her child to know the truth, and would not risk telling others under the rape clause in case they found out.

The woman, who has three other children, said she had previously felt suicide could be “the only way out” after being attacked by a close friend four years ago.

She said the need "to protect my children from the truth came above all other considerations" to avoid "the permanent and damaging stigma attached to rape".

Referring to the benefits form involved in the rape clause, the woman wrote: “There is no way I could complete that awful form of shame, no matter what the consequences.

"Looking back, that really could have been the thing that tipped me completely over the edge; the difference between surviving to tell the tale and not."

To cut the welfare bill, the Tory government has capped child tax credit to two children per family, except in special circumstances, such as a later child being born from rape.

To qualify for more money, mothers must name such children and discuss their case with health care professionals or others.

In a searing debate, MSPs heaped scorn on Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson and her party for failing to condemn the policy.

There were cries of “shame” as Ms Davidson and colleagues refused to take interventions, and said the measure had to be seen in the “context” of managing the nation’s finances.

Over a deeply uncomfortable two hours for the Scottish Tories, many of the party’s MSPs kept their heads lowered and read their phones instead of making eye contact with their critics.

After reading the victim’s email, Ms Dugdale said: “It's not the author of that letter, or any other rape victim, who should feel shame. It is those on the Tory benches here and in Westminster who refuse to act who should feel shame."

Opening the debate, Nicola Sturgeon asked the parliament to state it was “fundamentally opposed” to the two-child cap and the rape clause, and that both should be scrapped.

She said: “No woman anywhere should have to prove that she has been raped in order to get tax credits for her child. I actually can't believe that in 2017 I am having to stand up in the Scottish Parliament and make that argument.”

The First Minister rejected Ms Davidson’s “sticking plaster” argument that Holyrood could top-up tax credits to mitigate the cap and so there would be no need for a rape clause.

She said: “If we accept that argument there would be nothing to stop the Tories deciding to no longer pay any benefits for people in Scotland, pocket the savings and look to the Scottish Government to step in. It is a ridiculous and unsustainable argument.”

Ms Davidson said it was important MSPs did not cause “fear and alarm” by misrepresenting the exemption to the tax credit cap, which she said should be “closely monitored”.

She said: “There are many members of other parties who would wish away tax credits being restricted to the first two children and I would point them to the legislative powers of this Parliament. If she (Ms Sturgeon) chooses strong words but chooses not to act, that would indeed be shameful."

Green Alison Johnstone said any policy that involved women being asked about being raped would have a “completely unacceptable” impact on people’s the wellbeing and privacy.

She added: "Ruth Davidson asks what a Scottish Parliament is for. It is not simply to mitigate the policies of the Conservatives at Westminster."

SNP MSP Christina McKelvie said the clause was “malevolent social engineering” that tried to stop the poor having children, and “revulsion [to it] stretches to the horizon and beyond”.

Tory Rachael Hamilton said the SNP was trying to use the issue to “demonise” Ms Davidson.

MSPs later voted by 91 to 31 in favour of an SNP motion, amended by Labour and the Greens, condemning the "disgraceful and repugnant" rape clause as "unfair, unequal, morally unacceptable" and urging its repeal, leaving the Tories wholly isolated on the issue.