SCOTLAND is to become the first country in the world to introduce free universal access to period products after "groundbreaking" legislation was unanimously passed in Holyrood.

Scottish Labour MSP Monica Lennon said the move meant no one in Scotland will ever again have to go without period products such as tampons and sanitary pads.

She introduced the legislation to Holyrood in 2019 following years of campaigning and it has now passed its final stage in the Scottish Parliament, meaning it will become law.

Speaking in Holyrood, Ms Lennon said: "Scotland will not be the last country to consign period poverty to history, but we have the chance to be the first."

The Period Products (Free Provision) (Scotland) Bill will ensure free period products can be accessed by anyone who needs them, including in schools, colleges and universities.

Ms Lennon said it was a "practical and progressive" piece of legislation, made all the more vital because of the coronavirus pandemic.

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."

Writing on Twitter, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said she was "proud to vote for this groundbreaking legislation, making Scotland the first country in the world to provide free period products for all who need them".

Ms Lennon told MSPs: "We have got here because we have worked together. We have shown that this parliament can be a force for progressive change when we collaborate.

"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."

Her Bill was passed by 121 votes to zero after winning the support of the Scottish Government and the other opposition parties in Holyrood.

Ministers had initially opposed the legislation amid concerns the cost could greatly exceed the estimated £9.7 million a year.


Communities Secretary Aileen Campbell hailed the passing of the Bill as a "significant moment for gender equality".

She said it was a "great privilege to be here today on a day that we will commit to Scotland becoming the first country in the world to legislate to ensure that free period products are available to all who need them".

Ms Campbell added: "This legislation will do much to advance equality and social justice here in Scotland and elsewhere, as other countries seek to follow our path."

Rose Caldwell, chief executive of the charity Plan International UK, said: "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.

"With this landmark legislation, Scotland could soon become the first country in the world to eliminate period poverty once and for all, and with household finances under strain from the coronavirus restrictions, the need has never been greater.

"This new law will help to ensure that no girl or woman in Scotland struggles to afford period products."

She added that rollout of the legislation would be "critical", saying: "Period poverty is driven by a 'toxic trio' of issues, which on top of the cost of period products, includes a lack of education and the stigma and shame surrounding menstruation.

"We know, for example, that only a third (31 per cent) of girls in Scotland feel comfortable asking teachers for period products in school.

"That's why, alongside free products, we need education and training for girls, schools and parents to help tackle the stigma and embarrassment around periods as well as the cost."