I WAS delighted last week when the education and communities committee agreed to my request that we take action to address the issue of ‘period poverty’ by installing dispensing machines in our schools to provide free sanitary products to female pupils.

Campaign groups have identified that many women and girls in Scotland are unable to afford essential sanitary products during menstruation due to poverty.

Currently there are no statutory measures in place to address this issue although recently foodbanks have expanded their role to provide free sanitary products to those most in need.

Labour MSP Monica Lennon has launched a consultation on a Members’ Bill at the Scottish Parliament that would create a universal right to free sanitary products in Scotland regardless of women’s income.

The proposals include placing a duty on schools, colleges and universities to provide free sanitary products to their students via establishment toilets.

In Inverclyde we have decided not to wait until the legislation is introduced. We have agreed to proceed with the installation of free sanitary product dispensing machines in our schools in advance of any new law. 

It is hoped that this action could potentially improve school attendance and attainment, as well as pupils’ general health and well-being.

Last Friday night Monica spoke to local Labour party members about her campaign on period poverty and the progress of her Members’ Bill. 

Her campaign highlights the crucial role that backbench MSPs can play in the Scottish Parliament by championing important causes. 

It also underlines the direct role that councils can play in tackling poverty if we are given the necessary funding.

I have outlined previously in this column the very practical measures that the council takes to address poverty and to make services affordable to everyone in our community.

These include the provision of school clothing grants, breakfast clubs, free school meals, free school transport, free swimming, free music tuition and subsidised pitch hire for youth sports teams.

We also provide a range of welfare advice services and support organisations like Inverclyde Foodbank and Starter Packs who help the poorest people in our community.

Those of you who have engaged in the council’s budget consultation will see that some of these services are on the list of potential savings.

Unfortunately when councils are being faced with huge cuts in their funding from the Scottish Government non-statutory services come under severe threat.

I am still holding out hope that opposition MSPs will force the Scottish Government to give councils a better funding deal meaning we can avoid the most damaging of the savings proposals.

In the meantime however I would encourage you have your say on the budget by visiting our website at www.inverclyde.gov.uk/yoursay

The budget simulator can be found at https://inverclyde.budgetsimulator.com. You can email any http://www.inverclyde.gov.uk/yoursaycomments you have to yoursay@inverclyde.gov.uk
The consultation runs until February 11.
Don’t miss the chance to have your say.