A BORDERS farmer has hit out at 'Meat-Free Tuesdays' being introduced to school dining halls across the region.

Robert Balfour, who farms in Peeblesshire, believes the local authority should be supporting the industry during difficult and uncertain times.

The local authority introduced a meat-free day earlier this year following government-led plans to phase out red and processed meat.

Mr Balfour told us: "The Scottish Borders is one of the highest meat - both lamb and beef - producing areas of Scotland.

"For a body like Scottish Borders Council to introduce a policy of taking a meat choice away from children is disgraceful - all the council are doing is damaging the industry further."

The Scottish Government announced in June that it wanted less red meat and sugar on school menus, and more fruit and vegetables.

Making the announcement at the time, Deputy First Minister John Swinney said: “Our school food and drink regulations are now over a decade old.

"With more than 360,000 meals served a day, schools must follow the latest scientific and dietary advice and encourage young people to choose healthy habits for life.

“Every school lunch will now contain more fruit and vegetables, and where food is served elsewhere in school full portions of fruit and vegetables must be on offer.

“We have set maximum limits for consumption of red processed meat which is linked to an increased risk of cancer.

"This will also reduce exposure to harmful nitrites."

Scottish Borders Council has been developing its menus in line with the guidance from Holyrood.

Although 'Meat-Free Tuesdays' have been introduced, there remains a tuna option.

An education spokesperson said: "As part of the Scottish Government’s 2018 Healthy Eating in Schools consultation, processed red meat has to reduced on school menus by autumn 2020.

“The council has decided to adopt a phased approach to implementing these changes, and as a result there has been a reduction in the number of days in which ham sandwiches are available on the menu.

“The council will continue to support all local farmers and Scottish food producers where possible.

"The menus produced for our schools focus on the quality of our meals which involves sourcing local products.”