Christine Grahame is SNP MSP for Tweeddale and Lauderdale

Poverty in Borders

It seems I have stirred up a hornet's nest in suggesting Universal Credit is blameworthy for the 329 per cent increase in foodbank use here. This accusation comes directly from the Trussell Trust the largest provider of foodbanks. Add to that the recent report by the UN rapporteur Philip Alston who said UK ministers are in a "state of denial" about poverty, and that levels of child poverty are "staggering" with 1.5 million people destitute at some point in 2017. He met people affected by poverty as well as government officials, discussing the impact of austerity, changes to benefits and local government funding. He said he witnessed a lot of misery, a lot of people who feel the system is failing them, that it is really just there to punish them. The UK government rejected his analysis. Perhaps the return of Amber Rudd to work & pensions will see a change in Universal Credit and the two-child limit. Until then Michelle Ballantyne will just keep claiming Trussell Trust and now the United Nations have got it all wrong.

Christmas Card Competition for Schools

This is in its 19th year and each year I donate at Christmas to a charity. I seek no sponsorship and the prize is not to the child or indeed the school but to the charity for that year. In previous years it has been Shelter, SSPCA, Refugees and so on. That way I hope children engage as they inevitably do, especially at Christmas, with the need of others. The chosen charity gives a presentation on its work to the pupils. I understand some parents have had concerns about this being too political. I certainly hope not and this year I have asked the winning pupil and school to choose a local charity or charities to receive the money. I look forward as usual to the children’s entries.


Speaking of local charities, I met up with Kimberly Shaw-Walker who set up Zaagi, which makes donated wedding dresses into beautiful gowns for stillborn babies. Having lost a baby herself this is what inspired her. It is heart-breaking but very touching to see the little outfits wrapped carefully in white tissue and placed in a beautiful box. For those of us who have had children we cannot begin to imagine the pain of leaving hospital with no baby to take home. How fitting that this lady from Michigan has chosen the name 'Zaagi' from the Ojibwe tribe with the word meaning to be loved and treasured. If you have a wedding dress which is simply gathering dust, why not donate?

Borders Pet Rescue

It had been a wee while since I visited the centre in Earlston but I was delighted to see the progress being made with the potential for new units for the animals. I saw lovely cats needing rehomed especially older cats where the owner had died –although this will not be done over the Christmas break. It also still needs to raise funds to meet its £30K target so if you can, why not help them?