Scotland rules, period

Written by Katie Stanton, Senior Associate

Edited by Iain Gibson, Associate Partner

Good morning, I don’t think you need to be a woman to understand that periods are not a luxurious affair. At best, they are a monthly annoyance; at worst, they are call-in-sick, can’t-keep-food-down, dragging, stabbing, debilitating. They are a simple, terrible consequence of humanity that half of the population is resigned to at some point in their lives – if we can afford it. For most, not having access to sanitary products is inconceivable. It means not being able to function in society, in our economy. Work, school, college, life become impossible to navigate and the associated stigma leads to constant paranoia, shame and stress. This is the reality for nearly 10% of girls across Britain. And yet we are taxed five per cent on sanitary products in the UK due to European Union rules that class them as ‘luxury’ products. While the bloc has pledged to remove these taxes by 2022 – period poverty firmly tied up in the bureaucracy of Brussels, it would seem – the rules strike me more as a disturbing by-product of universal period embarrassment. Otherwise known as the crux of the issue, shame, impurity and a peculiar stoicism have long been associated with menstruation. It’s why you’ve never seen a female colleague carrying a tampon to the loo, and why period pain is rarely cited as the real reason for absence. It’s also why, in some parts of Nepal, women are exiled from their homes, forced to stay in ‘menstruation huts’, denied certain foods and banned from using toilet facilities. Varying degrees of indignity for an innately human function – and yet we don’t pay tax on toilet roll. You’ll imagine my delight then, when I finally heard some sense on the subject. Last week, the Scottish parliament voted almost unanimously to make women’s sanitary products freely available. This would make Scotland the first country to end period poverty, providing free period products to women of all ages. The bill is still in its infancy, but Scottish Labour MSP and mastermind of the Period Products (Free Provision) (Scotland) Bill, Monica Lennon, is “optimistic” that it can be enshrined in law by the end of 2020. Still, why provide universal access? Why not raise benefits so the nation’s poorest can cover the cost? The problem with this counter argument is that it has nothing to do with period poverty. It fails to address the embedded shame, to directly target the huge number of women and girls affected, and reinforces the idea that tampons are a commodity to be purchased, as opposed to a necessity. What’s more, girls aged under 16 don’t get benefits; they are without agency and entirely dependent on a family member to buy period products – if they can pluck up the courage to ask in the first place, that is. And all of this before you’ve even considered the effectiveness of our benefits system and the potential cost of the bureaucracy involved in measuring ‘worthiness’ for a period benefits supplement. So, while there are undoubtably creases to iron out – the ‘how’ being the main one – I think this is an incredibly bold and courageous step for Scotland, not just in terms of making products available for all, but for diminishing their associated stigma too. To me, the message is clear: Scotland rules, period.


In a remarkable rebound, Joe Biden has won eight of the 14 states that voted to pick a Democratic candidate for the White House on Super Tuesday. The former vice-president swept Massachusetts, Minnesota, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Alabama, Tennessee, North Carolina and Virginia. Bernie Sanders is projected to win the biggest prize of the night, California, as well as three other states. They lead the race to face Republican president Donald Trump in November’s election. Meanwhile, Michael Bloomberg spent more than half a billion dollars of his own money but did not win a single state. Hospitals across the UK have been told to see as many patients as possible via video call because their beds will be needed to treat coronavirus sufferers. After the government published its plan yesterday, the NHS stepped up preparations to covert wards to isolation units. (£) Meanwhile, Italian health authorities are considering setting up a new quarantine red zone in Bergamo, an industrial hub of 120,000 people, after the nationwide death toll jumped to 79, up by 27 in a day. A newborn baby is among the 2,502 Italians confirmed as having the illness.

Business and economy

It is feared there may be global shortages of some common drugs after India moved to curb the export of certain medicines due to the coronavirus. The world’s biggest supplier of generic drugs has restricted exports of 26 ingredients and the medicines made from them, including Paracetamol, one of the most widely used painkillers in the world. It comes as many drug ingredient makers in China remain shut. The aviation sector is also facing crisis as hesitant travellers avoid booking flights. Carriers have been forced to freeze hiring and slash the number of flights, including on lucrative transatlantic routes. Current data shows a 2.8% fall in global aircraft capacity so far this year. Moreover, the chief executive of Air France-KLM said yesterday that the fallout from the outbreak is likely to trigger more mergers and takeovers in the industry. Chancellor Rishi Sunak will use next week’s budget to signal an end to a decade of freezes on fuel duty, as he announces a raft of measures intended to help Britain meet its climate change targets. There is speculation he will scrap the £2.4bn diesel subsidy for users of farming and construction vehicles as the first stage, but could go further and end the freeze for all motorists.

Columns of note

In the Guardian, Aidan Harper notes that self-isolation is the preserve of workers outside of the gig economy, which accounts for some 4.7 million people. For those workers, the ones who deliver your food or drive your Uber, it means forgoing wages to protect others from disease. This is a major weakness in the government’s capacity to prevent the transmission of coronavirus. Writing in The Atlantic, Derek Thompson argues that this Democratic primary season has exposed the flaws in the momentum theory of politics. These days momentum doesn’t last more than a few seconds. Instead, he poses that demographics are the key to understanding shifting perceptions across different electorates. Now it’s a race between Sanders and Biden, not because of momentum, but because they have both built a base that’s “real, resilient, and ready to vote.”

Source: Evening Standard


What happened yesterday?

The 10-year US treasury yield hit a record low and stocks tumbled after an emergency rate reduction by the Federal Reserve failed to ease fears that the spread of coronavirus would push the economy into recession. The Fed cut its policy rate 50 basis points to 1-1.25% after bond yields had been steadily falling for days. Still, investors responded by turning up the heat on the US central bank to do even more to soften the blow from the outbreak. The 10-year treasury yield dropped to 0.99%, falling below one per cent for the first time. Meanwhile, the benchmark S&P 500 index fell 2.8%. Technology stocks were the hardest hit sectors, with Bank of America (which is on record describing itself as a “technology company, wrapped around a great bank”) sliding by 5.5%. Elsewhere, central banks in Australia and Malaysia cut interest rates, the Bank of Japan injected liquidity into the country’s financial system for a second day, and the Bank of England’s governor, Mark Carney, said the bank stands ready to support the economy with interest rate cuts as well as allowing banks to use “rainy day” funds. Stocks in London ended in positive territory, with the FTSE 100 up 0.96% and the wider FTSE 250 2.18% higher. The travel sector in particular managed to claw back some ground, with Lufthansa, International Consolidated Airlines Group, Wizz Air and Ryan Air all flying higher.

What's happening today?

Finals Attraqt Group Batm Advanced Devro Elementis Hill & Smith Hostelworld Legal & General Polymetal International Vivo Energy Interims Allergy Thera. Gfinity AGMs Chemring Inland Pressure Tech River Merc Red Int. economic announcements (07:00) Retail Sales (GER) (08:55) PMI Services (GER) (08:55) PMI Composite (GER) (09:00) PMI Composite (EU) (09:00) PMI Services (EU) (10:00) Retail Sales (EU) (12:00) MBA Mortgage Applications (US) (14:45) PMI Composite (US) (14:45) PMI Services (US) (15:10) ISM Non-Manufacturing (US)

Source: FTSE 100, Financial Times

Did you know?

The abandoned Panamanian merchant vessel Alta drifted around the Atlantic for 18 months before running ashore near Ballycotton, Ireland last month. During its roaming days, it was spotted only once.

Parliamentary highlights

House of Commons Oral questions International development (including topical questions) Prime Minister’s Question Time Ten Minute Rule Motion June Bank Holiday (Creation) Bill – Mr Peter Bone Opposition Day Debate Flooding Health inequalities Adjournment Sibling contact for children in the care system – Mrs Emma Lewell-Buck House of Lords Oral questions Improving doctor retention in the NHS upon qualification – Lord Naseby Regulating genome-edited crops after December 2020 – Viscount Ridley Management of investigations into historic sexual offences – Lord Campbell-Savours Integrated review of security, defence, development and foreign policy – Lord West of Spithead Legislation Birmingham Commonwealth Games Bill (HL) – Third Reading – Baroness Barran Fisheries Bill (HL) – Committee Stage (day two) – Lord Gardiner of Kimble Short debate Problems and possible solutions for children in the school system with dyslexia and other neurodiverse conditions – Lord Addington Scottish Parliament Portfolio questions Communities and local government Social security and older people Ministerial statement UK government negotiating mandate Education and Skills Committee debate STEM in early years education Legislative consent motion Birmingham Commonwealth Games Bill