By Bob Doris MSP
I have been contacted by a number of constituents regarding the Period Poverty Bill, and I wanted to give an update.
I am committed to the principles underpinning the Period Poverty Bill and had previously updated interested constituents that I would need to await the committee’s Stage One report to the Scottish Parliament. I stated that the clear priority for all is to support those on low incomes who may not be able to access products themselves. This goal is shared by many across Parliament.
The Scottish Government has concerns that the Bill, as drafted, may not be the best way of achieving this.
However I am pleased that the Scottish Government feels it is able to support the general principles of the legislation despite significant concerns regarding the practicality, delivery and costs of the Bill as drafted. I very much hope that these matters can be resolved as the legislation makes its way through the Parliament. The Cabinet Secretary Aileen Campbell MSP and the Scottish Government is committed to trying to amend the Bill to secure that aim.
It may be helpful to outline some of the concerns previously raised as well as some of the excellent work that the Scottish Government has already progressed to tackle period poverty.
It is suggested that the proposed costs of the Bill are underestimated regarding the cost of products, delivery and uptake. The financial memorandum included in the Bill suggests that, if period product uptake increased by just five percent per year, this would cost over £80m over the life of the next parliament, but Scottish Government estimates put this figure at £216.9m. This is a significant difference.
Progress Already Made By the Scottish Government
I would note that the Scottish Government’s approach to period poverty has been marked by flexibility and innovation. They are continuing to adapt and evolve policy, and test its effectiveness. The Scottish Government had not ruled out legislation but were concerned that adopting the Bill at this time may be premature and could put at risk some significant achievements.
Currently 400,000 young people are reached via their schools, colleges, and universities and 35,000 of the people most in need of period products are reached through 580 community groups. Period products are being provided in public sector settings and services, supported by £2.8m yearly funding to councils. In October, funding was provided to sportscotland to support grants for the members and supporters of up to 500 sports clubs to receive free period products. The Scottish Government is committed to continuing to increase the availability of period products, including supporting the introduction of a Locator App to help people access free period products.
I appreciate the time everyone took to contact me on this matter and I hope that the recent announcement by the Scottish Government means that some of the concerns identified can be resolved and that together we can make further progress in tackling period poverty.