Addressing Period Dignity in Scotland

Sanitary productsHalf a million women and girls are now able to access free period products in Scotland.

Back in 2018 a Scottish Government scheme insured period products would be freely available in Schools, Colleges and Universities.Investing £15million  meant that the scheme could be extended.

Despite the public support for ending period poverty and the success of the schemes a Bill (Period Products (Free Provision) (Scotland) Bill) in the Scottish Parliament which would have extended free period products failed to win wholehearted support from the Local Government and Communities Committee.

Most of the MSPs on this committee were not sure that a universal provision of free period products was needed. They thought that there was a lack of clarity on the scheme and that quite a bit of work would be needed to establish it.

They commended the work Labour MSP Monica Lennon had done on the issue but the convenor James Dornan, SNP, expressing the views of the committee said:

“The Committee has concerns about the Bill as drafted, including a lack of clarity over how much a universal scheme would cost, what a scheme would look like and the work required by Ministers to implement it.

“This is clearly a serious and important issue and the Scottish Government should ensure that current schemes are accessible to everyone who needs them. But for the majority of the Committee it is clear that the legislation before us is not the answer.”

“Andy Wightman MSP and Sarah Boyack MSP did support the General Principles of the Bill and dissented from a number of the Report’s conclusions. Details can be found in the Committee’s report.”

Link to Official Report: Local Government and Communities Committee 15 January 2020 [Draft]

Lots of information here: Period Products (Free Provision) (Scotland) Bill

Free vending sanitary products

Both PCS and Unite urged a change in language away from ‘period poverty’, which was seen as stigmatising in itself. They recommended the use of the phrase ‘period dignity’, and highlighted campaigns to promote this language. This phrase was used within a number of other submissions. SPICe summary of evidence

Period dignity – insuring women and girls have no barriers to prevent them accessing enough products when they require them is perhaps something those who have never had to live on a tight income had to think about. There are also many women and girls who for a variety of issues (including medical ones) require to use many period products i.e. it’s a lot more than 1 pack a month.

Toxic Shock Syndrome is a rare but life threatening condition that is often associated with not changing a tampon regularly enough. Harmful bacteria get into the body and if not treated early enough can be fatal. No woman or girl in Scotland should be using fewer period products than they actually need because of price or accessibility.

In Scotland we have universal provision for free prescriptions and for bus passes for the over 60s. These are excellent schemes and well supported. If anyone wants to actually pay for their prescriptions or their bus fare they can. Introducing these universal free schemes was achievable. It seems rather bizarre that one of the excuses for not implementing universally available free period products would be that it would involve a bit of work.

You can watch the Scottish Parliament’s Local Government and Communities Committee discussion here:

Reporter: Fiona Grahame

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