MORE than £250,000 worth of damage was caused after a barn was deliberately torched near Melrose.

And the farmer believes only good fortune prevented the flames spreading to his family home.

Police are currently probing the suspicious blaze at the farm just outside Newstead during the early hours of last Saturday morning.

It is understood that three people were seen running through the grounds of nearby Borders General Hospital just minutes after the barn was set ablaze.

As well as hundreds of bales of hay and straw, the fire destroyed trailers and other tractor attachments.

A Police Scotland spokesperson said: "We are investigating following a suspicious fire at a farm in Melrose.

"The incident happened around 4.15am on Saturday, December 29 at a property situated near to the Borders General Hospital.

"Several hundred hay bales and farm machinery were all destroyed as a result of the fire and inquiries are continuing to identify those responsible.

"Anyone with information is asked to come forward."

Investigating detectives are confident the three people spotted running through the grounds of Borders General Hospital are responsible for the fire.

Farmer Malcolm Kelly said: "Apart from the quarter of a million pound plus of damage and the time and inconvenience it's going to cause, if the wind had been blowing in the other direction my family and I would now be homeless."

Fire crews from Galashiels, Selkirk and Lauder tackled the flames and continued damping down until almost 11.30am.

Anyone with information or saw anything suspicious can contact Police Scotland on 101.