CLOSE to 30 emergency payments were paid every week last year to struggling Borderers last year.

During 2018/19 a total of 1,330 Scottish Welfare Fund crisis and care grants were paid to hard-up families and individuals - a rise of almost 20 percent on the previous year.

The shocking figures have been condemned by local SNP MSP Christine Grahame.

She said: “The Scottish Welfare Fund is a vital lifeline for many people facing poverty or personal crisis.

“The fact that so many households in the Borders are in need of emergency financial help is appalling, and a sad indictment of the UK Government’s record on austerity and welfare changes."

The figures, which show a steady decline in the number of payments between the inaugural year in 2013 and 2017, were released last week by the Scottish government.

During 2017/18 claims in the Scottish Borders were close to the previous year with a total of 860 crisis grants, which help people in financial emergency, and 275 community care grants, which aid individuals and families facing financial pressures set up home, were paid out.

But the trend was broken last year as claims started to rocket, with 1,005 crisis grants and 325 community care grants given out in the region.

Ms Grahame, who represents Midlothian South, Tweeddale and Lauderdale at Holyrood, believes continuing austerity measures from Westminster are to blame.

She added: "The UN Special Rapporteur on poverty described it as outrageous that the Scottish Government had to divert funds to protect people from Westminster's mess.

"The SNP will continue to do everything in our power to tackle poverty and support low income families.

"It's time for the Tories to end their austerity agenda and stop forcing the Borders families into poverty."

The Scottish government introduced the Scottish Welfare Fund in 2013, as part of a £125 million annual package to mitigate the impact of Westminster austerity and benefit cuts.

Since its launch, the fund has paid out more than £200 million to support over 336,000 households across Scotland, with a third of recipients being families with children.

The latest figures also reveal that only 46 percent of all applicants in the Scottish Borders were accepted for payments through the Welfare Fund.