A HOLYROOD committee has rejected a bid to make Scotland the first country to provide free period products for all who need them.

Five of the seven MSPs on the committee agreed there was “no clarity” about the total cost of such a scheme.

Labour MSP Monica Lennon, whose Member’s Bill sets out to establish a universal right of access to products such as sanitary towels and tampons, had estimated this would be £9.7 million a year, but the Scottish Government said the cost could be as high as £24m.

SNP and Conservative MSPs on the committee voted against her Period Products (Free Provision) (Scotland) Bill, with the Green and Labour members supporting it.

Lennon said: “It will be a bitter blow to everyone who has campaigned for this legislation to see SNP and Tory MSPs reject the principles of a bill that will end period poverty.

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“The committee accepted that many women and girls are still being referred to food banks for essential period products, despite the Scottish Government’s welcome initiatives to support period dignity in schools, colleges and universities and other community venues.

“My bill would build on existing schemes, close these gaps and deliver period dignity for all by protecting the right to access period products in law.”

The bill will face a Holyrood vote later in February, with Lennon urging MSPs to consider the evidence from the women’s groups and anti-poverty charities who backed her proposals.

In its report, the committee acknowledged the bill was backed by 96% of those who took part in a consultation last year.

The MSPs accepted that “for a minority, affording or accessing period products is a problem in Scotland which needs to be addressed”.

A majority of MSPs were “not convinced by the evidence presented that a universal rather than a targeted approach is preferable”.

The Scottish Government already funds free period products in a number of settings, including schools.