Councillors have asked for a detailed report into providing free sanitary products for school pupils following a heated debate on ‘period poverty’.
Following an SNP motion calling for the council to provide free sanitary protection products in all schools and council workplaces, a Labour amendment was tabled asking for a report into free sanitary products in Midlothian schools and congratulating Monica Lennon MSP on her work “raising awareness of and campaigning against period poverty”.
Cllr Debbi McCall (SNP), referred to evidence given by the Trussell Trust, Sottish Women’s Aid and Barnardos, she said: “I’m appalled that woman and girls in Midlothian can’t afford tampons and sanitary towels. It’s a deeply disturbing trend and we must act to give them dignity.”
Commenting on Monica Lennon MSP, Labour councillor John Hackett added: “It’s important to be aware that through the Scottish Parliament they are calling for a national scheme and we would look to support that campaign.
“Labour will continue to campaign to ensure that sanitary products are tax free.”
Perplexed that Labour councillors wouldn’t accept her party’s motion, SNP group leader Kelly Parry said: “The idea for this motion comes from one of your colleagues in Ayrshire, I’m so disappointed to see this being politicised
“The Labour amendment has nothing about workplaces. It’s a shame and a missed opportunity.”
Labelling the SNP motion hypocritical, Conservative councillor Keiran Munro said: “The high tax rate is set by the European Union, that only last year the SNP campaigned so hard to stay in. This motion is counter productive and although it has good intentions it is deeply flawed and will effectively charge the hardworking people of Midlothian twice.”
This provoked an angry response from former council leader Cath Johnstone (SNP): “How dare a man speak so casually and so negatively about a dreadful time in a woman’s life. Imagine having these feelings every single month.
“I was asking Midlothian Council to be progressive, not the European Union, not the Scottish Government, nor the Westminster government, to formalise an arrangement where period products can be made available.
“Making them available in Midlothian Council workplace will show a good example to all other big employers in Midlothian. It will also help improve workrate, performance and morale.”
Conservative and Labour councillors voted for the amendment, defeating the motion 12-5.