Campaigners welcome period poverty U-turn

Crop periods

The Scottish Government is to support a bill making sanitary products free for all. 

20th February 2020 by Gavin Stuart 0 Comments

Campaigners have welcomed the Scottish Government’s U-turn over the provision of free tampons and sanitary pads.

Communities secretary Aileen Campbell said the government would support a bill from Labour MSP Monica Lennon that would make sanitary products free of charge in Scotland.

SNP MSPs had previously opposed the bill, citing concerns about the cost, but came under pressure from charities and activists fighting period poverty.

Ms Campbell said ministers would back the bill at stage one while working with Ms Lennon to ease costing concerns.

The Scottish Government said the total bill could be as high as £24m.

Ms Campbell said: “I can also confirm that the Scottish Government will give support to the general principles of the Period Products (Free Provision) (Scotland) Bill in the Stage 1 debate next week.

“We have significant and very real concerns about the practicality and deliverability of the Bill in its current form, which were reflected in the Local Government Committee’s stage one report.

“However, as a signal of our good faith and in recognition of the broad consensus about general policy objectives, we will support the Bill at this stage.”

Ms Lennon thanked the minister for listening to “overwhelming public support” for her bill.

She added: “Scotland has already taken important steps towards improving access to period products and tackling stigma.

“Legislation will guarantee rights, ensure that current initiatives continue in future on a universal basis, and will help us achieve period dignity for all.”

Girlguiding Scotland is among the organisations who have lobbied for the bill to become law.

Their Speak Out Champion, Katie Young, 21, said: "This is such a great step forward in ensuring that the taboos around periods are tackled in making them more visible, starting discussions around periods, and ensuring that in the future, they will no longer be a source of anxiety.

“I'm hopeful that the bill will continue to move through Parliament, and that universal free period products becomes a right for all people in Scotland."

Anna Fowlie, chief executive of the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO), said: “Providing visible, free sanitary towels and tampons sends a strong message which says having your period is normal and, most importantly, makes sure all women and girls have the protection they need.

“No one should ever feel ashamed of such a natural human function, nor should they be bullied, teased or excluded because of it. Sanitary protection is a basic human right and I’m pleased to see Monica Lennon’s bill receive the support it needs to further progress through the parliament.”

A rally will take place outside the Scottish Parliament on Tuesday (25 February) at 12pm where supporters will come together to show the strength of the campaign, and call for formal support for the bill. The bill is due to be debated in the chamber later that afternoon.