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Water & Sanitation

Scotland Just Passed a Bill to Provide Free Period Products


Why Global Citizens Should Care
Period poverty is the lack of access to sanitary products, menstrual hygiene education, toilets, handwashing facilities, and waste management. Every day, girls and women around the world miss school or work because they're unable to manage their periods. To end poverty, we must pass legislation that breaks harmful taboos about menstruation, provide education, and promote safe sanitation. You can join us and take action on this issue here.

This post was originally published on Feb 20. and has been updated to reflect stage one debate results on Feb. 26.

The Scottish government took a U-turn and is now on track to support new legislation to make period products free for all.

Labour MSP Monica Lennon first introduced the Period Products (Free Provision) (Scotland) Bill to legally make period products available to students and anyone who needs them through a government-supported “period products scheme” on April 23. Ministers previously opposed the bill, but received criticism from menstrual health advocates and announced on Feb. 20 that they would lend support for the bill's passage.

The Scottish National Party entered a stage one debate on Tuesday seeking amendments to address their “significant” concerns about the bill but it passed 112 votes to zero, with one abstention. A committee of MSPs will now review the proposal before reaching a final decision.

The charity Girlguiding Scotland has actively worked to end period poverty in the country. Girlguiding said that they welcomed support for the bill in a statement released to Global Citizen on Feb. 20.

“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,” Girlguiding Scotland Speak Out Champion Katie Young, 21, said. “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."

The charity recognizes there is still a way to go before the bill becomes law.

Parliament approved Stage 1 of the Period Product (Free Provision) Scotland today. I am thankful to everyone who made it possible.

Was nice to have my daughter by my side as Scotland sent out a strong message on period dignity and gender equality. ❤️https://t.co/CzUKQ467Kn

— Monica Lennon (@MonicaLennon7) February 25, 2020

Communities Secretary Aileen Campbell initially told Scottish Parliament the bill was unnecessary and feared people would take advantage of free period products. She also expressed concerns about the bill’s more than £24 million (around US $31 million) annual cost. 

But Campbell confirmed that the legislation would have bipartisan support from the Scottish Conservatives, the Greens, and the Liberal Democrats when it comes before the Parliament for the first time next week.

While the government voiced concerns about implementing the bill, they understood there was, "broad consensus about general policy objectives,” Campbell said, according to the BBC.

Related Stories May 31, 2018 Scotland Will Give Out Free Tampons to Low-Income Women

Many serve to benefit if the bill becomes law. Plan International UK found 1 in 10 girls in the UK can’t afford to buy menstrual products, and 49% have missed an entire day of school because of their period. 

Lennon committed to work across party lines to implement the bill. 

"Parliament will now need to pull out all the stops and work hard collectively and collaboratively,” she said, according to the BBC.