Free Sanitary Products Scotland

Written by Chris Thornton | 16th of August 2022
Free sanitary products Scotland

Scotland is the first country in the world to offer free sanitary products.

On the 15th of August 2022, it became enshrined in law that councils and education providers must ensure free period products are available to those who need them in Scotland.

So why have the Scottish Government decided to provide free period products? Let's investigate.

Period Poverty

Sadly many girls and women in Scotland cannot afford period products, such as tampons and sanitary towels. Poorer families often resort to making their own from strips of cloth, old paper or wads of toilet roll.

Plan International UK carried out a survey in 2017, reporting:

  • 1 in 10 girls in the UK had been unable to afford period products.

  • 1 in 7 had to borrow products from friends.

  • 1 in 10 had to improvise and create their own, with some sadly using newspaper, old clothes and toilet paper.

In 2021, another survey found that more than a third of girls aged 14-21 (36%) had struggled to afford period products, an increase of one-fifth compared to 2020.

The Social Enterprise, "Hey Girls", reported that one in four school-aged children had faced period poverty at some point in their life in Scotland.

Each woman in Scotland is thought to spend around £200 per year on period products.

Free period products Scotland.  Financial barriers.
Costs add up over a year.

The Period Products (Free Provision) (Scotland) Bill

Access to free period products was first proposed in November 2020 by Labour MSP Monica Lennon in the Scottish Parliament.

While proposing her "Period Products (Free Provision) (Scotland) Bill", she said:

"Periods don't stop for pandemics and the work to improve access to essential tampons, pads and reusables has never been more important."

"Our prize is the opportunity to consign period poverty to history. In these dark times we can bring light and hope to the world this evening."

Chief executive of the charity Plan International UK, Rose Caldwell, commented:

"In making this world-first commitment, the Scottish government has shown itself to be a pioneer in tackling period poverty, and we hope that nations around the world will follow its lead."

The bill passes without challenge

The "Period Products (Free Provision) (Scotland) Bill" received unanimous support and passed by 121 votes to zero, even going unopposed by opposition parties.

Guidance was published in October 2021 on what local authorities and education providers were required legally required to do when providing access to free period products.

The bill became an act on the 12th of January 2021.

The Period Products Act

On the 15th of August 2022, the act finally came into effect.

The Period Products Act is comprised of four main sections:

  1. Local authorities to ensure period products are generally obtainable free of charge.

  2. Education providers to ensure period products are obtainable free of charge by pupils and students.

  3. Specified public service bodies to ensure period products are obtainable free of charge by persons on their premises.

  4. Period products should be easily obtainable and respect the dignity of the person.

The rest of the act contains guidance on how each of the steps above should be approached.

The Act adds to the existing "Period Products in Schools (Scotland) Regulations", which began in October 2020, in which local authorities and grant-aided schools had to provide free products for pupils.

During the current cost of living crisis, free provision of period products will be vital.

More information on the Period Products Act can be found here.

How to access free period products in Scotland

If you are still in school, college or university, all of these should be able to offer you free period products upon request. They are required to do this "in a way that respects the dignity of persons obtaining them", as outlined within the Act itself, so do not worry about being shamed or feeling humiliated for asking for these products.

In addition to educational establishments, many other places will offer free products, including:

  • Town halls

  • Councils / Public buildings

  • Development Trusts

  • Leisure Centres

  • Libraries

  • Community Centres

  • Swimming Pools

  • GP Surgeries

The best way to find out the nearest place to you is to use the mobile app mentioned below.

Period dignity campaigners. Primary and secondary schools.
All educational establishments should now offer free period products in Scotland.

PickupMyPeriod mobile app

A free mobile app is available named "PickupMyPeriod" is available for download. The app lists 1000 locations where free period products can be collected.

Download the free PickupMyPeriod app for IOS or Android devices.

Once installed, you can use your phone's location to find the nearest place, or you can search for a list of local collection points. Each location displays what types of products can be collected, normally tampons and sanitary towels, but some offer reusable pads. There is no requirement to set up a user account; it is entirely anonymous.

If you can't access the app, remember that most places should stock free products, don't be afraid to ask for them.

PickupMyPeriod mobile app
Screenshot of the PickupMyPeriod mobile app.

Postal Service

Many local councils are offering a free service to post period products to you directly. Aberdeenshire Council, for example, offers an online form and telephone number (03456 081208) to order free period products.

Check with your local council to see if they have a similar service; keep in mind the scheme only launched recently, and postal services might not be ready yet at many councils.

If you feel pressure asking in person, this would be a great way to access period products by having them delivered to your door.

How are free period products funded in Scotland?

As with all of the benefits we receive in Scotland, such as free tuition and free prescriptions, the money is taken from the Scottish Government block grant as part of the Barnett Formula.

No extra money is given from the UK Government to pay for free period products in Scotland; the Scottish Government have just decided to spend the available budget in a way that helps women in Scotland. It's not really fair that women have to pay for a normal bodily function.

Again this has caused anger in England because it is seen as English taxpayers paying for "Scottish freebies" despite it being paid from the existing budget. Their anger should be directed at their own government, which has not provided access to the same benefits.

How much will access to free period products cost?

Around £10 million, and about £27 million, has already been spent within public settings since 2017 to provide access to free products.

Scotland leading the world in free period products.
Scotland leading the world with free feminine hygiene products.

Conclusion

Period poverty is obviously a big problem in Scotland and the UK, so it's fantastic those in need will no longer have to pay for period products in Scotland. Hopefully, England, Wales and Northern Ireland will follow Scotland's example!

Scotland has made "public health history" with its bold political choices, and many countries are looking to emulate similar period poverty acts within their own laws to end period poverty.

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