ALMOST 70 SNP members have signed an open letter calling on SNP MSPs to back a bill which would make universal access to free period products a statutory right.

The member’s bill – proposed by Scottish Labour MSP Monica Lennon with the aim of tackling poverty and stigma associated with periods – was voted down by the SNP and Conservatives on the Local Government and Communities Committee this month.

The Scottish Government has argued the legislation is unnecessary in light of measures it has already introduced to address period poverty and has raised concerns about the costs.

SNP members – including Inverness councillor Emma Roddick, comedian Janey Godley, several representatives of the Young Scots for Independence National Executive, including convener Cailyn McMahon and vice-convener Charlotte Armitage, members involved in SNP branches around Scotland – are urging MSPs to reconsider this ahead of a parliamentary vote on February 25.

Organised by the national equalities convener of SNP Students, Stuart Smith, and backed by 66 other members prior to being made public, the letter states that the SNP “is built on the foundations of equality, respect and dignity” and is “leading the way on a universal approach to tackling inequality” in other areas, including higher education, personal care, prescriptions and the Baby Box.

READ MORE: MSPs reject Monica Lennon's bid for universal free period products

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The letter urges MSPs to continue this approach with period products, noting that the party has already “made massive strides in tackling period poverty”, making Scotland the first country to provide free period products in schools, colleges and universities since 2018 and recently launching a campaign to address the stigma around periods.

The letter adds: “However, we can, and should, do more. The Period Products (Free Provision) (Scotland) Bill aims to make free universal provision of period products a right. The bill will create a statutory duty so that progress made on this issue cannot be rolled back and undone.

“It aims towards universal provision, where those who choose to access these products can do so easily, in privacy and with a choice of the products they receive, with an option for collection or delivery. The passing of this bill will give those in need the dignity and privacy to maintain their personal health.”

The Scottish Greens, Labour and the LibDems are backing the legislation, but it will only pass to the next stage if either the Tories or the SNP add their support. The letter from SNP members stresses that the bill is “open to amendments” after the initial vote, which will give “all parties an opportunity to have their say and for a consensus to be reached”.

Commenting on the support from SNP members, Monica Lennon said: “The Scottish Government has taken important steps to boost access to period products and tackle stigma, but there is more to do to achieve period dignity for all. Legislation will guarantee rights and ensure these initiatives continue on a universal basis.

“Cross-party support and grassroots activism has fuelled the progress made so far. I applaud SNP members who have thrown their weight behind the bill and I hope that Scottish ministers will work with me and others to make free universal access to period products a reality.”

Responding to the letter, Scottish Government Communities Secretary Aileen Campbell said: “I applaud Monica Lennon for her work on the proposed period poverty bill but we need to address the concerns in her proposed legislation, such as what a universal scheme offering a variety of products would look like, what the impact of losing local flexibility would be, and the estimated £24 million a year it would cost to the public purse.”

The National: Aileen Campbell called for concerns over the proposed legislation to be addressedAileen Campbell called for concerns over the proposed legislation to be addressed

Campbell added that the government’s initiatives and £15m investment mean that more than half a million people in Scotland now have access to free period products.

She said: “Every school, college and university in Scotland and over 800 community organisations now provide free products, and we are working with councils to make sure they are available in a range of community settings such as local libraries and town halls.

“The breadth and reach of our work is not replicated anywhere else in the world but it has only been 18 months since we began our innovative work, we want to evaluate it fully to make sure it’s working and reaching those it should.”

Newly elected Scottish Conservative leader Jackson Carlaw indicated last week that he would back the legislation.

When asked about it during a Facebook Live Q&A, he said: “I will, actually. I think [Monica Lennon] has done the work behind this and deserves our support.”