The Scottish Parliament voted on Tuesday to unanimously allow free and universal access to menstrual products in public facilities across the country. This makes Scotland the first country in the world to make such products a legal right for its citizens.
The bill that just became law was first introduced in April 2019 by Member of the Scottish Parliament Monica Lennon. She had been a large proponent of the push, even writing in a 2017 document pushing for free menstrual products about the realities of period poverty in the U.K.
“Despite the fact that a pack of sanitary pads can be found in most supermarkets for a couple of pounds and might not seem like a huge expense — when you have no or very little income, it can be insurmountable,” she wrote in the document.
After the bill passed, Lennon tweeted out a fitting pun: “about bloody time.”
Prior to Tuesday’s vote, Aileen Campbell, the cabinet secretary for communities and local government, noted that the bill’s passage would make it “clear that everyone in this chamber agrees that no one in our society should have to suffer the indignity of not having the means to meet their basic needs and that being able to access period products is fundamental to equality and dignity.”
Schools and other educational facilities had already been providing much of the country with free menstrual products since 2018, but the pandemic closings made them inaccessible. The hope is that this new bill will fill those gaps. It will be the local officials’ responsibility to implement and enforce the new law, though the financial memorandum estimates the program will cost Scotland around £8.7 million a year overall.
Britain’s central government has been taking steps this year to combat period poverty. In March, the government announced that, beginning in January 2021, the current 5% sales tax — known as the “pink tax” or “tampon tax” — would no longer apply.