MSPs (Members of Scottish Parliament) passed a bill on the 24th of November, making it the first country in the world to provide free and universal access to period products. The bill was introduced by Labour MSP Monica Lennon with the aim of ending period poverty.
An alarming context
Charities have been raising the alarm for years: they argue that period poverty is a global issue, affecting a big number of women all across the country. Indeed, the findings of a recent survey show that one in four students had struggled to access free period products. The average period lasts about 5 days which can cost more than £5 a month, making impossible for many women to afford. In addition to that, period poverty has reached high levels with the pandemic
Charities have also been pointing out “tampon taxes”. The European law sets a minimum 5% VAT, meaning that the UK could neither reduce nor abolish the tax on period products. With the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union, the government will be able to set its own VAT rates; some ministers even say they want to totally scrap the tax.*
Before this bill, Scotland had already made provision of free pads and tampons mandatory in schools, highschools and colleges. This new legislation is asking for a country-wide scheme to ensure that everyone has access to free period products. However, concerns were raised about potential abuses. Some suggested that the scheme, which needs to be operational within 2 years, could follow the condom distribution scheme, provided in pharmacies, colleges… This measure is expected to cost £9.7 million a year.
A “world-leading” policy
The vote took place on the 24th of November and the bill was voted unanimously by the Scottish Parliament. Scotland’s Prime Minister welcomed the vote. “I am proud to vote for this groundbreaking legislation” she later said on Twitter. Monica Lennon, the MSP who issued the bill, called it a “world-leading” legislation. But big changes are still to be made elsewhere in the world…