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Scotland leads on fight to end period poverty in the Highlands

By Iona M.J. MacDonald

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Did you know that there are over 70 places across the Highlands where you can pick up free period products?

In a world-first, Scotland has made period products available for free to everyone, but not just in cities. You can also access the free period products in some of the most rural places in the Highlands, such as Bettyhill, Achiltibuie and Brora.


The Period Products (Free Provision) (Scotland) Act, which came into force in August, works to tackle period poverty, promote period dignity, and break stigmas. Period poverty means "being unable to access period products, and having a lack of knowledge of menstruation".

Period poverty is a big issue in developing countries, but even in first-world countries such as the UK, period poverty is still a major issue.

Scotland's women's health minister, MSP Maree Todd, said:"In a country as rich as Scotland, no one should have to struggle or suffer the indignity of not having the means to meet their basic needs."

As of 2017, one in 10 girls couldn't afford to buy period products, according to a survey by Plan International UK. This then has a domino effect on women's education – UK charity Freedom4Girls found that many girls are missing school due to period poverty.

Maree Todd, Public Health Minister. Picture: James Mackenzie.
Maree Todd, Public Health Minister. Picture: James Mackenzie.

Ms Todd, the MSP for Caithness, Sutherland and Ross, said:“The Highlands is a low-wage economy where bills are typically higher, meaning the cost-of-living crisis is having a devastating and disproportionate impact on local household budgets. Thanks to The Period Products bill, we can work to alleviate financial pressures on people, and strive to eliminate period poverty for good.

“I’m delighted to see the Highland Council make good progress in the delivery of free period products. There’s more work to do, but I have no doubt that Scotland will be on the map as a leader in period dignity and equality.”

The free period products can be picked up at over 70 places across the Highlands, These include: leisure centres, community centres, local hubs, schools, galleries and libraries.

Free period products are available in women’s and gender-neutral spaces, and in some cases, they are available in men’s facilities when gender-neutral ones are not available. Offering period products in gender-neutral and men's bathrooms means that non-binary folk and transgender men also have access.

You can find the specific locations in your community offering free period products, via the MyPeriod website or the PickUpMyPeriod app on Google Play store or Apple App Store. A home delivery service is also available for those in remote areas without local access.


Highland MSP Emma Roddick said:“As someone who has advocated for free period products for a long time, even before I was an MSP, I was absolutely delighted to see this become a law in Scotland. Providing free products to all those who need them is massively positive, and Scotland being the first country in the world to achieve this is a demonstration of the type of government we have here.

“With poverty often targeting those in the Highlands disproportionately, it's particularly great to see this roll out across the Highlands and Islands.”

Ann Falconer, a recently retired Ullapool High School PSE teacher, said: "Before period products were free, periods weren't widely talked about."

Free period products have been in Scottish schools since 2018, and in 2021 the legislation passed for Scotland to become to first country offering free period products, and the legislation came into force in August of this year.

Ms Falconer continued: "This policy is a big step forward in addressing inequalities – some of us are unaware of the poverty others live in.

"Discussion around menstrual issues gave young people of all genders more confidence to talk about it, anything that makes periods normalised within everyday life is a good thing. Talking about not being able to afford basic sanitary products in a developed country like ours has raised awareness of how unequal our society can still be."

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