Scotland Creates £5.2m Initiative for Free Sanitary Products

As part of the growing effort to end period poverty, Scotland provides students with free sanitary products.

University of Glasgow is one of the universities in Scotland now providing free sanitary products to students. Michael D. Beckwith. CC0 1.0

University of Glasgow is one of the universities in Scotland now providing free sanitary products to students. Michael D. Beckwith. CC0 1.0

Only a few weeks ago, the Scottish government announced a £5.2 million ($6.4 million) initiative to provide students with free sanitary products. The scheme is part of a national effort to “banish the scourge of period poverty” by ensuring that no student’s health, studies, or wellbeing are affected by not having adequate access to sanitary products.

Scotland’s action is a first in world history and will provide all of the country’s 395,000 students with free pads and tampons beginning this September.

According to a survey of 2,000 by Young Scot, 1 in 4 people at schools and universities across Scotland have difficulty purchasing sanitary products. Another study by Women for Independence showed that one in five women go through period poverty. Because of this lack of access to period products, thousands miss school or have to make their own sanitary products using rags or newspapers, according to Plan International UK.

In a statement, Communities secretary Aileen Campbell said that, “In a country as rich as Scotland it’s unacceptable that anyone should struggle to buy basic sanitary products.

“I am proud that Scotland is taking this world-leading action to fight period poverty and I welcome the support of local authorities, colleges and universities in implementing this initiative. Our £5.2m investment will mean these essential products will be available to those who need them in a sensitive and dignified way, which will make it easier for students to full focus on their studies.”

The government is partnering with the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (Cosla), Colleges Scotland, Universities Scotland, and the Scottish Funding Council, to make the initiative a reality. Hey Girls, a social enterprise company, is serving as the provider for the scheme. The company’s founder, Celia Hodson, told the Guardian that the initiative is “a real milestone in the fight against period poverty.”

While ultimately the initiative will only be able to serve students, according to Cosla president Alison Evison, “it will also contribute to a more open conversation and reducing the unnecessary stigma associated with periods.”

“Periods are a part of life, they shouldn’t be a point of inequality, compromise someone’s quality of life or be a distraction from making the very most of time spent at university, so this is a positive step,” Susannah Lane, the head of public affairs at Universities Scotland.

Monica Lennon, Scottish Labour MSP and the member responsible for a bill creating a statutory duty for free feminine hygiene products told the press that, “This is another great step forward in the campaign against period poverty. Access to period products should be a right, regardless of your income, which is why I am moving ahead with plans for legislation to introduce a universal system of free access to period products for everyone in Scotland.

“No one should face the indignity of being unable to access these essential products to manage their period.”


EMMA BRUCE is an undergraduate student studying English and marketing at Emerson College in Boston. While not writing she explores the nearest museums, reads poetry, and takes classes at her local dance studio. She is passionate about sustainable travel and can't wait to see where life will take her. 

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