Scots will be able to access period products with no means tested.
Scotland is known for many things including lochs, whisky and haggis, to name a few, but it will now be known for leading the way when it comes to eliminating period poverty. The nation has become the first ever country to pass a law making period products free for anyone who needs them.
On Tuesday evening, members of the Scottish Parliament (MSPs) unanimously approved a Bill which makes free access to items such as tampons and sanitary pads a legal right. The bill was put forward by Labour health spokeswoman Monica Lennon, who said the Period Products (Free Provision) (Scotland) Bill was all the more important in light of the coronavirus pandemic.
Monica Lennon, who has spearheaded the campaign since she was elected to Holyrood in 2016, told the Scottish Parliament: “Periods don’t stop for pandemics and the work to improve access to essential tampons, pads and reusables has never been more important.”
Period poverty – the struggle to pay for basic sanitary products on a monthly basis – has surged during the coronavirus pandemic, according to charities. A survey of more than 2,000 people by Young Scot found that about one in four respondents at school, college or university in Scotland had struggled to access period products.
Meanwhile, about 10% of girls in the UK have been unable to afford period products; 15% have struggled to afford them; and 19% have changed to a less suitable product due to cost, according to research. Women are estimated to spend an average of £13 a month on period products and several thousand pounds over a lifetime.
Lennon told MSPs: “We have got here because we have worked together. We have shown that this Parliament can be a force for progressive change when we collaborate. Our prize is the opportunity to consign period poverty to history. In these dark times we can bring light and hope to the world this evening.”
Her Bill was passed by 121 votes to zero after winning the support of the Scottish Government and the other opposition parties in Holyrood. The Labour MSP said: “On the issue of period dignity, I am beyond proud that Scotland is leading the way and we have moved at a fast pace in a short space of time.”
The scheme, which is estimated to cost about £8.7m a year, will not be means-tested. The Scottish government earlier decided to back the bill in principle despite previously opposing it because of significant and very real concerns about how it would work. The government proposed significant amendments to the bill as it proceeded through parliament, meaning it is now backed by all of the parties at Holyrood. The scheme will need to be operational within two years of the legislation becoming law.
The legislation will also make it a requirement for schools, colleges and universities to provide the products for free, which was announced by first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, in 2017. This was then a world first, while the Scottish government has also funded a project in Aberdeen to deliver free period products to low-income households as well as a further £4m for councils to continue the roll-out to other public places.