Time for Union to address the “tampon tax”

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Following the news that a motion to rescind the “tampon tax” was rejected by Westminster, women from all over the United Kingdom took to social media in a furore.  Tweets and photo captions mocking the decision to maintain that tampons are “luxury goods” were seen on everyone’s timelines.  However, despite the waggish tone of most social media posts, the sheer number of people who gave their opinion on the decision is testimony to the seriousness of this issue.  Thousands of disparate women (and men) came together with one message: This is ridiculous.

Many others have waxed lyrical on this subject – you can read Amy Elliot’s wonderful article in Viewpoint for more on the subject – and it suffices to say that the “tampon tax” is an indisputable example of backward thinking amongst some UK politicians.

We realise that an editorial in Time for Union to address the “tampon tax” The Saint is not going to change Westminster policy.  What we can hope to change, however, is the policy of our Students’ Association.  The news that the Students’ Representatives Council (SRC) has halted plans to sell tax-free sanitary products in the Your Union shop will come as blow to many.

Cash strapped female students are amongst those who need to be free of this ridiculous tax the most.  We all know that a woman’s menstrual cycle is not something she chooses for herself, and to have to pay an additional tax for comfort during the cycle is nonsensical.  It is safe to say that most open-minded, intelligent students at St Andrews would agree that deeming tampons “luxurious” is unfair.  It would be nice to feel the support of our representatives so that we as a student body can take a stand against an issue that many of us feel strongly about.

Those who kept up with the news during the last Sabbatical elections in March will know that Ben Anderson – who ran for Students’ Association President – made selling tax free sanitary products in the Union a core part of his campaign.  Therefore, the idea has been bandied by the Union for eight months now.  We’re wondering what the hold-up is.

The problems stem from uncertainty over funding for the project.  When looking at this issue, it is important to bear in mind that our Union receives relatively low funding in comparison to others in the UK.  An article recently published by The Saint revealed that the Union’s block grant from the University is just £545,556. While this may seem like a hefty sum, it is measly in comparison with the £2.799 million block grant Edinburgh’s student union receives.  However, we are not asking that our Union provide free sanitary pads and tampons to students as Glasgow and Edinburgh have.  We are simply asking that they provide tax-free tampons.

No matter what our funding situation may be, we should still be placing priority on issues that matter most to students.  As a large majority of St Andreans are students, the policy of selling tax-free tampons is sure to be one that is well received and appreciated.  Wouldn’t the implementation of a policy of this sort have a far wider impact on the student body than, say, the recent birthday celebration for the Rectors’ Café.

All we can hope is that the SRC recognizes the importance of this matter and passes a motion as soon as possible.  It would not only show us that our representatives have our best interests at heart, but it would also be a great legacy to leave behind.

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