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Scotland is set to make all period products free for all

In a bid to battle period poverty, the Scottish government is backing plans to make sanitary products free ‘for anyone who needs them’ – the first country in the world to do so

In a monumental move, Scotland has progressed towards making all period products free, as MSPs across all parties back a bill to combat period poverty

The Period Products Bill, first proposed by the Labour party’s Monica Lennon back in 2017, had cross-party support at Holyrood parliament yesterday (February 25). Today, it’s expected to pass its first legal test in the chamber. The groundbreaking legislation will make Scotland the first country in the world to provide sanitary items – tampons, pads included – free for anyone who needs them.

Today’s news on the bill marks an about-face by Scottish politicians who originally opposed the bill, citing a “huge amount of work to do” to make it affordable and deliverable by the government. Period poverty campaigners had been putting pressure on lawmakers to concede. As the Independent reports, MSPs have continued to highlight concerns with costs and rollout, but communities secretary Aileen Campbell has confirmed that lawmakers would work to create more “robust” figures for the plan to see it to success.

The Period Products (Free Provision) (Scotland) Bill would legally oblige the Scottish government to ensure that period products are freely available “for anyone who needs them”. Today, the government is expected to offer up any amendments to said concerns over the bill, including the projected £24 million annual cost of providing free period products. 

Labour’s Monica Lennon told the Scottish parliament that “access to period products should be a right and available to all”, adding that she was “thrilled” for the bill’s success. She highlighted the abundance of support “from right across civic Scotland, from girl guides, trade unions, anti-poverty charities and many individuals who have had their own lived experience of period poverty and know what it is like not to have access to products when they need them”. 

A 2018 study across Scotland, England, and Wales found 25 per cent of women were forced to miss school or work because they couldn’t afford sanitary products. A survey by Young Scot found one in four study participants struggled to access sanitary items when they were needed.

A pilot scheme was rolled out in Scotland back in 2018 that offered women of low-income free period products. 1,000 women in Aberdeen accessed the project, and it was found to be a resounding success. Last year, the Department of Education made period products free in English and Welsh primary schools. 

From 2020, schools across the UK were given new guidelines for covering issues such as sextingconsent, and periods

Average periods last about five days so it can cost up to £8 a month for tampons and pads.

Freedom4Girls spokesperson Victoria Abrahams previously told Dazed: “Women’s periods have been commoditised so much such that we have been conditioned to refer to our menstrual health products as ‘sanitary products.”