Ben HaywardNovember 25th

Scotland has become the very first nation in the world to provide universal access to period products free of charge. 

The Period Products (Free Provision) (Scotland) Act, passed unanimously through its final stage in the Scottish Parliament on Tuesday evening, legally obliging local authorities to make period products available for all those who need them, free of charge. 

The campaign, has been led by Scottish Labour’s health spokeswoman, Monica Lennon, who told the Guardian it was ‘a proud day for Scotland’.

Ms Lennon said: “This will make a massive difference to the lives of women and girls and everyone who menstruates. There has already been great progress at a community level and through local authorities in giving everyone the chance of period dignity.

“There has been a massive change in the way that periods are discussed in public life. A few years ago there had never been an open discussion of menstruation in the Holyrood chamber and now it is mainstream. 

“MSPs have enjoyed being a part of that, and it has encompassed the menopause, endometriosis, as well as the types of products we use and their sustainability.”

The move comes at good time, as, according to charities, period poverty has surged during the coronavirus pandemic.

Previous research carried out by the group Women for Independence revealed that almost a fifth of women has experienced period poverty, with women estimated to spend several thousand pounds on period products in their lifetime. 

It is estimated that the scheme will cost roughly £8.7m a year, and although the Scottish government initially challenged universal provision, it will not be means-tested. 

The new legislation also makes legal the requirement for schools, colleges and universities to provide period products for free - another world first when it was initially announced by Nicola Sturgeon in 2017.

A number of individual businesses including restaurants, pubs and even football clubs had already started providing free sanitary products, and it now relatively common in Scotland to be able find free products or an honesty box in women’s toilets. 

Ms Lennon added: “It’s an important message in the middle of a global pandemic that we can still put the rights of women and girls high up the political agenda.”

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