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In a first of its kind globally, the Period Products (Free Provision) Scotland Act was enshrined into law in Scotland on 24 November, laying the foundations for eradicating period poverty for Scottish women.
Following a four-year campaign by Labour's Member of the Scottish Parliament Monica Lennon, backed by trade unions, student unions and women's campaigns, the act will place a legal duty on local authorities to make period products available to all.
One-in-four school, college and university girls, women and trans people, stated they have struggled to access period products, and 10% said they were unable to afford them pre-Covid.
The pandemic has massively increased this problem as colleges and universities closed and many women, particularly low-paid working-class women, lost their jobs, faced eviction, and grassroots organisations struggled to provide an effective service.
Women spend, on average, £13 a month on period products. The alleviation of this gendered burden will have a significant impact not only financially, but physically and mentally as well.
Importantly, the act will include promoting education to end the stigma surrounding menstruation. This has, encouragingly, opened up discussion about menopause, endometriosis and product sustainability.
The cost of this scheme is estimated to be around £8.7 million a year. Initially opposed to the scheme, the Scottish National Party (SNP) government was ridiculed for suggesting "cross-border tampon raids" would follow its implementation into law. It was finally forced into a U-turn as the campaign gathered more support.
The SNP and Scottish Labour's refusal to fight Tory cuts, despite standing on anti-austerity platforms has seen brutal cuts to council budgets across Scotland, with severe and detrimental effects for women and girls; 250,000 Scottish children live in poverty.
This concession has to be seen in the context of how much they've cut women's vital services to the bone, including social work services in my deprived area, West Dunbartonshire.
SNP and Labour refusal to defy Tory cuts means that the Scottish Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition will be standing in the Scottish elections next May on a platform of implementing no-cuts budgets and fully funding services.
The free period products victory should be welcomed, but all the social problems of inequality still exist, so we should fight on.
This law should now be built upon and pushed to be implemented across the rest of Britain. A mass campaign could force the weak and divided Tory government to follow the successful implementation in Scotland, ending period poverty for all.
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Article dated 2 December 2020
The Socialist, weekly newspaper of the Socialist Party
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