MSPs endorse Bill to make period products free to all

Monica Lennon's Bill to make sanitary products freely available to all passes first stage unanimously.

Vote: Legislation is aimed at tackling period poverty.
Vote: Legislation is aimed at tackling period poverty.

A Bill to make period products universally free in Scotland has been backed in principle by MSPs.

Holyrood voted by 112 to zero to back the legislation at stage one, which would see Scotland become the first country in the world to make products like tampons and sanitary pads freely available to all.

The Period Products (Free Provision) (Scotland) Bill, introduced by Scottish Labour MSP Monica Lennon, will now progress to stage two.

It comes after a U-turn by the Scottish Government, which announced last week it would back the legislation, aimed at tackling period poverty, at the first stage of voting.

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However, ministers have said they still have “concerns” about the proposals and will be working with Lennon to produce more “robust” figures about the costs.

The Labour politician had originally estimated the changes – which would introduce a legal right of access to period products – would cost £9.7m a year.

The Scottish Government estimated the annual bill would be substantially higher at £24m.

One SNP MSP, James Dornan, abstained in the vote, but the rest of the government and SNP backbenches endorsed the Bill at stage one.

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Ahead of the debate, groups that have supported the legislation, including Girlguiding Scotland and the trade union Unite, staged a rally outside Holyrood.

Commenting after the vote, Lennon said: “This is an amazing victory for everyone who has campaigned for free universal access to period products and who has convinced the Scottish Government to back this ground-breaking Bill.

“Scotland has already taken important steps towards improving access to period products and tackling stigma but legislation will guarantee rights, ensure that current initiatives continue in future on a universal basis, and will help us achieve period dignity for all.

“MSPs backing the principles of this pioneering legislation at the first stage is a huge step forward, and I hope that all parties will continue to listen to those who would benefit from the Bill as it continues to proceed through parliament.”

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