Scotland Makes Sanitary Products Free For All In Landmark Vote

by : Julia Banim on : 26 Feb 2020 07:09

No person should have to face the humiliation that comes with being unable to afford adequate sanitary products.

Those who argue such items should be taxed as a luxury item have clearly never faced the indignity of bleeding through a cheap, flimsy pad on the bus. They have never panicked during a job interview because they know the wad of tissues in their knickers will all too quickly disintegrate.


Unbelievably, period poverty is still a very real and pressing concern in the UK, with one in 10 schoolgirls unable to afford to afford menstrual products. A further one in seven girls struggle to pay for products, which can cost up to £8 per month.

Free sanitary productsFree sanitary productsJulia Banim

This sort of additional stress can have a significantly damaging impact on a young woman’s well-being and education. According to statistics from Bodyform, 49% of British girls have missed an entire school day because of their period.

With stigma and shame still rife around this very ordinary time of the month, a shocking 59% of these girls have either made up a lie or given an alternative excuse to dodge school.


It’s not often spoken about in public spaces, but menstruation can affect so many aspects of a person’s life, particularly if they have to deal with additional issues such as homelessness, abusive relationships or health conditions such as endometriosis.

With this in mind, Scotland has just passed groundbreaking legislation to develop a scheme whereby menstrual products such as tampons and sanitary towels will be provided free of charge, alleviating a burden that hangs over so many people each month.


Under the The Proposed Sanitary Products (Free Provision) (Scotland) Bill, put forward by Scottish Labour MSP Monica Lennon, ministers are now legally obliged to develop a universal system to provide free products for anybody who requires them.

Schools, colleges and universities will also have a statutory duty to provide free products in their toilet facilities, and Scottish ministers could also call upon other public service bodies to follow suit.

Scotland has already led the way on this issue. Prior to this bill being passed, tampons, pads and some reusable products have already been available in schools, colleges and universities thanks to £5.2 million worth of funding from the Scottish government in 2018.


As reported by BBC News, a further £4 million was made available to councils to expand availability to other public places, with another £50,000 allocated to sports clubs.

Free sanitary productsFree sanitary productsPA

This latest decision follows a significant U-turn from the Scottish Government, which announced only last week that it would support the bill.

Communities Secretary Aileen Campbell initially spoke of ministers’ ‘concerns’ over the bill, stating that the government would be working alongside Lennon to come up with more ‘robust’ figures in terms of costs.


Lennon originally estimated the bill would require £9.7 million each year, however the Scottish Government gave a higher estimation of £24 million.

Lennon has stated:

These are not luxury items. They are indeed essential and no one in Scotland should have to go without period products.

We are changing the culture and it’s really exciting that other countries right around the world are watching very closely to see what we do.

Scottish Period PovertyScottish Period PovertyPA

At the time of writing, sanitary products in the UK are taxed at 5%. Although the government announced the ‘tampon tax’ would be dropped way back in 2016, this development has yet to come to fruition.

UNILAD spoke with Youthwise volunteer member, Anna who came up with the inspired idea for ‘Project M’.

Anna told UNILAD:

There has been a lot of speculation about period poverty in the national news recently, but there doesn’t seem to be a permanent solution in place. Youthwise wanted to tackle the problem head on and make a start by helping young women on a regional scale.

Periods can be a really embarrassing topic and accessing essential products as a young woman can be a nervous and ‘uncomfortable’ experience.

‘Project M’ allows young people to pop along to the Streetwise drop in and sign up for an ‘M’ card. The ‘M’ card allows them access to free period products discretely and it can be used as many times as they want.

The process is as simple and as subtle as possible in order to help make young women feel comfortable when accessing essential products.

Fellow Youthwise volunteer Mark, who helped to launch this period poverty project, told UNILAD:

Some projects already offer a similar scheme, but they are usually based in schools, colleges and/or universities and so only those students can access them.

The difference at Streetwise is that it’s for our age range of 11-25 year-olds. There is no discrimination of who can access the service, and we help to make sure young women can access the products they need.

It’s been cheering to see so many powerful organisations and political representatives come out in support of this much-needed bill. Let’s hope the rest of the UK will soon be inspired to show similar compassion.

If you have a story you want to tell, send it to UNILAD via [email protected]

Julia Banim

Jules studied English Literature with Creative Writing at Lancaster University before earning her masters in International Relations at Leiden University in The Netherlands (Hoi!). She then trained as a journalist through News Associates in Manchester. Jules has previously worked as a mental health blogger, copywriter and freelancer for various publications.

Topics: News, Scotland


Bodyform and 2 others
  1. Bodyform

    What is period poverty?

  2. BBC News

    Period poverty: MSPs set to back plans for free period products

  3. The Scottish Government

    The Proposed Sanitary Products (Free Provision) (Scotland) Bill