Free sanitary products to be available in Scottish Parliament building

Written by Jenni Davidson on 18 May 2018 in News

The Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body has decided to provide free sanitary products in all women’s toilets

Scottish Parliament windows - Image credit: Holyrood

Free sanitary products are to be available in the Scottish Parliament building, after a decision by the cross-party Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body (SPCB).

The move, which will be brought in with immediate effect, means all women who visit or work in the parliament will have access to free towels or tampons.

Recent campaigns have highlighted issues around the accessibility, affordability and VAT on sanitary products and both Labour’s Monica Lennon and the SNP’s Gillian Martin have been campaigning on the issue.

The introduction of free sanitary products in the 42 women’s toilets in all parts of the building follows on from an 'honesty box' initiative by staff on the parliament's Women's Network.

The honesty boxes worked on a goodwill basis of 'replace what you use' as soon as possible, but wasn't considered sustainable for toilets in public parts of the building where visitors may visit only once or infrequently.

Lennon wrote to the SPCB in February highlighting the popularity of the honesty boxes and calling on the SPCB to provide free sanitary products in all women's toilets across the parliament. 

Former Scottish Labour leader and SPCB member Kezia Dugdale called the decision a "win for gender equality".

She said: "Menstruation and menopause continue to be taboo subjects and women often find it difficult to access sanitary products during the working day.

“Despite half of the population experiencing menstruation at some point, very few workplaces have taken steps to become period-friendly and that's why I'm pleased the Scottish Parliament is leading by example.”

She added: "I'm proud the Scottish Parliament is committed to equality and I hope other employers and public buildings will follow suit."

Monica Lennon said: “This a welcome announcement and a great victory for gender equality.

“I would like to pay tribute to the Scottish Parliament Women’s Network for its work in helping deliver this positive and progressive step forward. 

“But we cannot stop here and that is why the legislative steps we can take with my member’s bill to tackle period poverty remain as important as ever. 

“I call on other parliaments, buildings and employers to take similar action to ensure no one has to live in period poverty – and that is why I have written to the Scottish Government urging them to follow Holyrood’s lead and take a similar step.  

“Together, we can end period poverty in Scotland.”

The cost of providing free sanitary products in the Scottish Parliament building is expected to be between £2,000 to £3,000 a year.

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