Scotland is a world-leader in the provision of access to free period products. Between 2017 and 14 August 2022, the Scottish Government has delivered policies to provide non-statutory access to free period products in a range of settings. The aim of this policy area was to support equality, dignity and rights for those who menstruate and to ensure that lack of access to period products does not impact on an individual's ability to fully participate in day-to-day activities, including work and education at all levels.
Non-statutory provision included support to access free period products in educational settings – schools, college and universities - from August 2018 and in community settings – such as libraries and community centres – from December 2019. Funding provided to the charity FareShare has supported targeted provision of free period products to lower income groups.
The Scottish Government convened a Working Group with membership from internal policy colleagues and external stakeholders. The working group developed and agreed on a set of guiding principles for delivery in educational settings, which were adapted for delivery in community settings. The guiding principles are set in Annex A.
The Period Products (Free Provision) (Scotland) Act 2021
In November 2020, Scotland became the first country in the world to introduce a law making period products widely available for all who need them. The Period Products (Free Provision) (Scotland) Bill gained Royal Assent on 12 January 2021 to become the Period Products (Free Provision) (Scotland) Act 2021 (the Act). The Act commenced on 15 August 2022 and places a duty on local authorities to make period products obtainable free of charge in their areas by ‘all persons who need to use them’ to meet their needs arising while in Scotland.
The Act also requires education providers to provide free period products in locations within each institution, including at least one location in each building which is normally used by pupils or students unless, following consultation, it is decided that a building is unsuitable for the provision of period products.
The Act also sets out that period products must be obtainable (i) reasonably easily, (ii) in a way that that reflects the dignity of persons obtaining them and (iii) offer a reasonable choice of period products.
Since 2017, the Scottish Government has invested over £33 million to fund access to free period products across a range of settings including schools, colleges and universities, wider public spaces and targeted access through community groups for those on low incomes. The Scottish Government has committed to continue funding to local authorities, grant-aided schools and governing bodies of further and higher education institutions to meet their duties under the Act.
For 2022/23, the Scottish Government is providing almost £3.4 million for access to free period products for students at school, college or university and £2.8 million per year to local authorities to provide wider access to period products in schools and community settings across Scotland.
Based on data collection, current funding allocations are expected to continue to be sufficient to meet the duties under the Act. Therefore, no uplift will be applied to full-year funding allocations for 2023/24 to 2025/26. If however, local authorities, colleges and universities can evidence that as a result of increased uptake their full funding allocation for that year is going to be insufficient to meet their duties, additional funding can be applied for through a "bid-in" fund. The bid-in fund will be open for applications from October to December each year during the financial years 2022/23 to 2025/26, with the Scottish Government’s Financial Wellbeing Unit aiming to inform the outcome of applications as soon as is practical following the deadline for bids.
An independent evaluation will be carried out between May to September 2025 to examine statutory provision by local authorities, colleges and universities, with a final report published in October 2025. One of the key objectives of this evaluation is to inform Scottish Government funding allocations to local authorities and education providers to ensure proportionate funding to support uptake and costs. Data collection from local authorities, colleges and universities will be sought to help inform the process. It is anticipated that funding will then be baselined from 2026/27.
In the meantime, funding for the provision in educational settings is based on:
- The number of people in the menstruating pupil and student population.
- An assumed uptake rate, defined as the proportion of the menstruating pupil and student population taking their full annual product requirement.
- Product costs, costed on the basis of an annual requirement of 300 disposable products per person.
- An additional uplift for administration (£5 per head).
Funding for provision in community settings is separated into two strands:
- Wider population access: The funding allocation is based on 20% of the eligible population taking 5% of their annual product requirement (15 products per person at 11.6p each).
- Tackling poverty: The funding allocation is based on 35% of the eligible population taking their full annual product requirement.
The Scottish Government has committed to continue to provide funding to local authorities, grant-aided schools and governing bodies of further and higher education institutions to meet their duties under the Act.
A revised Financial Memorandum was produced by the Scottish Government, which sets out the best estimates of potential costs associated with the implementation of the duties and powers in the Act and how these costs might change over time.
However, there are a number of factors that introduce significant uncertainty into the estimates presented in this revised Financial Memorandum. These include uncertainties around estimated uptake, the cost of period products and the impact of transitioning to statutory provision on administrative costs.
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