Scotland politics

Scottish ministers urged to lead fight against 'period poverty'

Sanitary products in the supermarket Image copyright Getty Images

Ministers are being urged to make Scotland a world leader in fighting "period poverty" by making sanitary products free for those who need them.

Labour MSP Monica Lennon says access to the products should be "a basic right".

She wants schools, colleges and universities to be required to provide free items in their female toilets.

In July, the Scottish government announced a six-month pilot project in Aberdeen aimed at women and girls from low-income households.

At least 1,000 people should receive free sanitary products during the trial, which ministers have supported with £42,500 of funding.

Ms Lennon is launching a consultation on a members' bill aimed at ending the problem Scotland-wide.

The legislation, if passed, would create a new duty on ministers to introduce a universal system of free provision of sanitary products.

Ms Lennon says this would operate in a similar way to the NHS C-Card scheme, which distributes free condoms to anyone who wants them, with no questions asked.

But while the free sanitary products would be available to everyone, she believes that most women would continue to buy their preferred brand from shops and supermarkets if they can afford to do so.

Ms Lennon's proposals would also require schools, colleges and universities to provide free sanitary products in their female toilets, which would not just be available to students.

Any students who wanted more free products to take home would be able to get them from the student union.

Basic right

The duty could be extended to other organisations at a later date following a review.

Ms Lennon, Labour's inequalities spokeswoman at Holyrood, said access to sanitary products should be a basic right, but not everyone can currently afford or obtain what they need.

Speaking on BBC Radio's Good Morning Scotland programme, the Labour MSP added: "We're hearing about women and girls using sanitary products for too long, longer than what is safe to do so, people improvising and using other items.

"We are hearing about young people who worry about having their period in class and they know that there is no products available in school toilets.

"There are a lot of stories there that people find hard to speak about, but as this campaign has evolved I feel like we and starting to see the stigma lift a bit and people are speaking out."

Communities Secretary Angela Constance said she agreed it was unacceptable for any girl or woman not to have access to sanitary products.

She said: "We are exploring how to make these products freely available.

"I welcome Monica Lennon's work on access to sanitary products and will be happy to engage further with her as we look at what more can be done to tackle the issue, within the current powers of the Scottish Parliament."

More on this story