SNP ministers are to launch an app to help women access free sanitary products after being criticised for fighting legislation intended to end period poverty.

Communities Secretary Aileen Campbell insisted Scotland was leading the way, with free period products available to more than half a million people.

She said the Government had invested £15m in “world-leading action to widen provision and tackle the stigma surrounding periods”.

However the SNP remains isolated on the subject at Holyrood, where its MSPs are opposing a Labour-led Bill to ensure universal free access to sanitary products.

Monica Lennon’s Period Products (Free Provision) (Scotland) Bill would put a duty on the Scottish Government to ensure free period products are available to all women.

However the Government says it is flawed, putting the annual cost at £10m, when it could be £24m.

Ms Campbell has even claimed it could lead to cross-border tampon raids, telling MSPs the system could be abused by “people outside Scotland seeking access to the products or people accessing them to sell at a discounted rate outside Scotland”.

The Tories initially opposed the Bill too, but in recent days have swung behind it, with acting Scottish leader Jackson Carlaw and Scottish Secretary Alister Jack both voicing their support.

Ms Campbell said an app developed with the Hey Girls campaign and the council umbrella group Cosla would be launched later this year to provide information on where to get free products locally. 

The Government would also give more resources to employers, which as the supermarket chain Asda, who provide products to their staff.

She said: “Every school, college and university in Scotland and over 800 community organisations now provide free products, and we are working with councils to make sure they are available in a range of community settings such as local libraries and town halls.

“Having your period is normal and natural – something half the population experiences. That’s why we launched a ground-breaking campaign, ‘Let’s Call Periods, Periods’, to challenge the stigma around periods and encourage more people to talk openly about them.

“The breadth and reach of what is happening here is not replicated anywhere else in the world and we are committed to making sure our work reaches everyone it should.”

But Ms Lennon said legislation remained key to the issue, and urged MSPs to back the general principles of her Bill in a crunch vote at Holyrood on February 25.

She said: “Period products are essential items, not luxuries and no one should have to go without them.

“Legislation is the next progressive step we should be taking to make Scotland an unequivocal world leader on gender equality.

“My Bill will guarantee that free period products in schools, colleges and universities continue and that no one ever has to struggle during their period.”