Holyrood urged to back 'period poverty' Bill despite rejection by scrutiny committee

MSPs are being urged to support legislation which would introduce a right to free sanitary products for women and girls in Scotland, despite an influential committee refusing to back the proposal.

Monica Lennon's "period poverty" Bill was rejected by a Holyrood commitee.
Monica Lennon's "period poverty" Bill was rejected by a Holyrood commitee.

SNP and Conservative members of Holyrood's Local Government and Communities Committee have recommended that the Scottish Parliament rejects legislation which aims to end "period poverty".

Scottish Labour's health spokesperson Monica Lennon has brought forward a Member's Bill which she hopes will be adopted by the Scottish Government. However, after taking evidence on the proposal, the scrutiny committee said that while they supported the legislation's principles, more clarity on costs and the structure of a scheme was needed.

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As a result three SNP MSPs and two Tory MSPs voted against the Period Products (Free Provision) (Scotland) Bill, while the Scottish Labour and Scottish Green members on the committee voted in favour.

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SNP committee convener, James Dornan said: “A difficulty in affording and accessing period products affects people across Scotland every day, and the committee is aware of the need to reduce stigma around menstruation.

“We applaud Monica Lennon for all her efforts in bringing this Bill before the Scottish Parliament and helping to raise awareness of these issues. The committee also commends the work undertaken by local authorities, the third sector, and grassroots groups to promote and deliver existing schemes and welcomes the positive response to the government’s targeted provision of free products.

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“However, the committee has concerns about the Bill as drafted, including a lack of clarity over how much a universal scheme would cost, what a scheme would look like and the work required by Ministers to implement it.

Ms Lennon's Bill would make access to period products a legal right for anyone who needs them and introduce a legal underpinning of the recently introduced provision of period products in schools, colleges and universities.

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The legislation has support from a wide range of women’s and equality organisations, youth organisations, anti-poverty charities and trades unions, with dozens of organisations signing an open letter to MSPs in support of the general principles of the legislation. A consultation on the Bill found 96 per cent of responses to be in support.

Today Ms Lennon said the committee's decision was "deeply disappointing". She said: “It will be a bitter blow to everyone who has campaigned for this legislation to see SNP and Tory MSPs reject the principles of a Bill that will end period poverty.

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“The Committee accepted that many women and girls are still being referred to foodbanks for essential period products, despite the Scottish Government’s welcome initiatives to support period dignity in schools, colleges and universities and other community venues. My Bill would build on existing schemes, close these gaps and deliver period dignity for all by protecting the right to access period products in law."

Carolyn Fox-McKay, Communications and Policy Manager of Girlguiding Scotland said she was also "disappointed" n the decision. She added: "Girlguiding Scotland has long been a campaigner to end period poverty and the stigma surrounding periods.

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"Period products aren’t a luxury, they’re an essential product and no-one should miss out on opportunities, face isolation or embarrassment simply because they can’t afford them.

“Establishing a universal scheme to ensure free period products are easily available to everyone who needs them will not only create economic benefits to individuals and families, but will also support girls and young women’s participation in education and extracurricular activities, and help to end the stigma around periods.

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"We urge MSPs to listen to the voices of girls and women and support this Bill as it comes before Parliament.”