Period poverty: Scotland moves a step closer to making sanitary products free for all

MSPs will vote at Holyrood today

Sophie Gallagher
Wednesday 26 February 2020 08:21 GMT
Labour MSP Monica Lennon explains her bill to make period products available in Scotland

Scotland is expected to get one step closer to making period products free as MSPs vote on groundbreaking legislation today.

If passed, the Period Products Bill would make Scotland the first country in the world to provide period products – including tampons and sanitary pads – for all women for free.

The bill, which was first proposed in 2017 by Labour’s Monica Lennon in a bid to tackle period poverty, is expected to pass the first legal hurdle at Holyrood today with MSPs from all parties endorsing it.

It comes after a U-turn from the Scottish government, which announced last week it would be backing the motion.

Although communities secretary Aileen Campbell said ministers still had “concerns” about the legislation and the cost. She said they would work with Ms Lennon to produce more “robust” figures for the proposed plans.

Ms Lennon originally estimated the bill would cost around £9.7 million a year to the government.

But the government has estimated the annual bill to the taxpayer would be substantially higher, at around £24 million.

Ahead of the debate, groups including Girlguiding Scotland and the trade union Unite have supported the legislation,

Over 25 per cent of women in England, Scotland and Wales have missed work or school because they could not afford to buy menstrual products, according to a 2018 poll.

In England and Wales, free sanitary products are now available in all primary and secondary schools. The move will ensure pupils do not miss out on lessons due to their period, according to the Department for Education (DfE).

Amika George, founder of the FreePeriods campaign group, said: “As a grassroots, student-led movement, Free Periods has been fighting for every single child in this country to be able to go to school without worrying about their next pad or tampon.”

In January, womens’ groups criticised supermarkets for displaying anti-shoplifting messages on shelves of sanitary products.

“Years of austerity and rising homelessness have pushed many women into a situation where their only options are to shoplift for these basic essentials or to go without,” said Mandu Reid, the leader of the Women’s Equality Party.

In 2018, women from low-income homes across Scotland were offered free sanitary products as part of a pilot scheme.

The trial project in Aberdeen was funded by the Scottish government and distributed free products to more than 1,000 women.

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