Free period products Scotland: World-first legislation is yet another ground-breaking public health decision – Angus Robertson MSP
Legislation passed unanimously in the Scottish Parliament has just come into force making public health history around the world.
For the first time, a country is protecting the right to free sanitary products, with local councils and education providers having to provide the free items to those who need them.
Scotland’s Social Justice Secretary Shona Robison said providing access to free period products was "fundamental to equality and dignity. We are proud to be the first national government in the world to take such action”.
She went on to stress: "This is more important than ever at a time when people are making difficult choices due to the cost-of-living crisis. We never want anyone to be in a position where they cannot access period products.”
The campaign for the ground-breaking legislation was led by Labour MSP Monica Lennon, who deserves much praise for her efforts. She says that “local authorities and partner organisations have worked hard to make the legal right to access free period products a reality”.
And the Central Scotland MSP added: “This is another big milestone for period-dignity campaigners and grassroots movements which shows the difference that progressive and bold political choices can make. As the cost-of-living crisis takes hold, the Period Products Act is a beacon of hope which shows what can be achieved when politicians come together for the good of the people we serve.”
Scotland has a good track record at building consensus around ground-breaking public health changes. This has included a ban on smoking in public places, which Scotland was one of the first countries in the world to adopt.
It also includes the introduction on minimum pricing on alcohol, which forms a part of a wider strategy to reset Scotland’s relationship with excessive alcohol consumption.
Scotland was one of the first countries in the world to emulate the Finnish innovation of providing a baby box to all new parents. The box contains essential items that help families prepare for the arrival of their baby. The idea has become so popular that other countries are doing the same. Ireland has begun a trial with the parents of 500 newborns to get baby boxes.
In Scotland, there is a major focus on improving public health, which is of course a fundamental human right. This means providing the highest possible standard of physical and mental healthcare which is accessible, available, appropriate and of the highest quality.
It is a huge challenge when health inequalities remain a major challenge. This has been made even more challenging with the Covid pandemic, the biggest public health emergency in living memory.
Nevertheless, the focus to improve public health in Scotland is absolutely the right one. The Scottish Government is looking at innovative ways to deliver health benefits from across government, including social prescribing. At the same time, we need to look at our lifestyles and life habits to see if there are changes we can make to make healthier choices.
Scotland has proven it can make ground-breaking public health decisions. Let’s celebrate the successes but continue to make the necessary changes.