If the SNP is blocking a sensible Bill over fears of cross-border ‘tampon raids’, how can they be expected to cope in the event of an independent Scotland, wonders Ian Murray.
Politicians in opposition often use the parliamentary mechanism of a Private Member’s Bill to raise issues or introduce a new law. It is a challenge to get them on the statute book, but if they contain good ideas, or become popular with the public, governments sometimes choose to back the Bills or introduce their own legislation.
One such Bill in the Scottish Parliament has been introduced by Labour MSP Monica Lennon. She has been a long-term advocate for tackling period poverty. The lack of access to affordable sanitary products for women has become an increasingly acute issue. My former MP colleague who represented Dewsbury, Paula Sheriff, was promoting similar legislation at Westminster.
The Sanitary Products (Free Provision) (Scotland) Bill was introduced by Monica into the Scottish Parliament process. I am deeply disappointed it has, so far, been opposed by the SNP Government. It is an uncontroversial and progressive proposal that would remove period poverty and help those in our communities who have the least.
My disappointment turned to astonishment at the reasons given by the Scottish Government on why it is opposing it. Ministers were worried there would be a “Tampon Raid” on Scotland from those living in England who would cross the border, steal all our free sanitary products and head back across Hadrian’s Wall. I’ve never heard anything so ridiculous. Can you imagine the traffic queues on the A1 of people heading north to fill their cars with sanitary products to bootleg them back to England?
A hard border
It’s nonsensical and I urge every MSP from every party to get behind Monica’s Bill.
There is an incredible irony here though. If the Scottish Government is worried about a “Tampon Raid”, then what is it going to do in the event of an independent Scotland? How hard would a border with England need to be in the event of a separate new currency, divergence in regulations, conflicting trading arrangements, and differing immigration policies?
The Scottish Government needs to start being honest with the public with regards to its proposition for independence. As part of the UK we don’t have any trade barriers with the rest of the UK – where over 60 per cent of our exports go.
But when you have different regulatory policies across a land border – something the SNP is now proposing – you are required to have firm controls on that border to protect the flow of goods and services. It is something the Scottish Government can’t just keep wishing away.
The strange thing is that the SNP has already been making the argument about the necessity of a hard border – not between Scotland and England, but between the UK and the EU with regards to Northern Ireland and Brexit.
Facts, not blind assertions
There is a much wider and even more disturbing situation developing here in the paralysis of the separation debate. That is one of honesty. We have the contradictions with the border but it doesn’t stop there. We had the SNP Cabinet Secretary for Constitutional Relations, Mike Russell, stating this week that Scotland “pays out more than it gets back”. That is simply untrue. Not only is it a lie, but his own Government’s figures show it to be untrue to the tune of nearly £13bn. That’s equivalent to almost the entirety of the Scottish NHS budget.
This all just shows that senior politicians who are proponents of separation will say anything to the public in order to turn voters to their cause, even when the facts and their own arguments contradict their assertions.
Scottish politics has been paralysed and poisoned by the question of separation. Surely, we can at least expect a debate based on fact rather than blind assertions. And please can we stop the silly arguments of “Tampon Raids” and support Monica’s Bill? Sadly, I fear the opposition to it from the SNP has got less to do with those pesky English bootleggers and more to do with it being a great idea that is being promoted by a Labour MSP.
Ian Murray is Scottish Labour MP for Edinburgh South