SCOTLAND has taken a crucial step towards becoming the first country in the world to end period poverty, despite warnings the plan is currently unworkable. 

The Scottish Parliament backed Labour MSP Monica Lennon’s Bill to make sanitary products free on a universal basis by 112 votes to nil, with a single abstention.

The vote, on the general principles of the Bill, was passed amid government and Tory reservations that the Bill, although admirable in its aim, is flawed in practice.

Ms Lennon said she expected the Bill would be amended in its second and final parliamentary stages to overcome objections.

The Period Products (Free Provision) (Scotland) Bill would put a duty on the Scottish Government to ensure free period products are available on a universal basis.

Ms Lennon has estimated the cost at £10m a year, but ministers say it could be £24m.

She said the legislation was “pioneering” on an international level, but not radical or extreme, simply “the right thing to do”.

She said: “Too often this Parliament is defined by division, disagreement and discord.

"This Bill shows what Parliament can do when we put aside our legitimate political differences and work together.

"Women and girls are too often left behind in the political process. This is a chance to put them first and do something that is truly groundbreaking on gender equality.

"Menstruation is normal. Free universal access to tampons, pads and reusable options should be normal, too."

Communities Secretary Aileen Campbell said current measures under the SNP Government gave more than 530,000 women access to period products, and suggested the Bil could be delayed by attempts to determine how much it could cost.

She said this had been "significantly underestimated", and officials now had to do further work "to allow us to better estimate cost before lodging a motion for financial resolution".

SNP and Tory MSPs on Holyrood’s local government committee voted to stop it progressing earlier this month, but then Tory leader Jackson Carlaw suddently supported it.

Isolated on the issue, the SNP then reluctantly gave it their support too. 

However SNP MSP James Dornan, who chaired the local government committee, refused to vote with his party and said the Bill would need “a considerable number of amendments to make it anything like workable”.

He said he had been surprised to see a member’s Bill “with such a lack of detail and clarity” brought before his committee. 

Tory local government spokesman Graham Simpson said the Bill was neither “workable nor necessary”, adding: “It’s clear to me that tampons and pads are not expensive.”

Advocates of the legislation say around one in five women experience period poverty, with sanitary products an integral part of foodbanks.

Mr Simpson also complained about Mr Carlaw’s sudden U-turn, claiming he had been “ambushed” by a question during a Facebook broadcast while running for party leader.

“If only I had been informed in advance,” he said.

Green MSP Andy Wightman, one of the committee members who supported the Bill, said it was about the "statutory creation of a right" to period products.

He added: "When I asked the Cabinet Secretary in committee whether she agreed that access to period products should be a right, she was unwilling to provide a straight answer but did say that a lack of access can inhibit the realisation of other rights such as education and work."

After the vote, Ms Lennon said: “This is an amazing victory for everyone who has campaigned for free universal access to period products and who has convinced the Scottish Government to back this ground-breaking Bill.

“Scotland has already taken important steps towards improving access to period products and tackling stigma but legislation will guarantee rights, ensure that current initiatives continue in future on a universal basis, and will help us achieve period dignity for all.

“MSPs backing the principles of this pioneering legislation at the first stage is a huge step forward, and I hope that all parties will continue to listen to those who would benefit from the Bill as it continues to proceed through Parliament.”