Christine Grahame is SNP MSP for Tweeddale and Lauderdale

I have stirred up a hornets nest suggesting to Michelle Ballantyne that Universal Credit is blameworthy for the 329 per cent increase in foodbank use here. This accusation comes directly from the Trussell Trust, largest provider of Foodbanks. I suppose she thinks it’s wrong too. Add to that the report by the UN rapporteur Philip Alston which 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 and 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 indeed charities to receive the money. I look forward as usual to the children’s entries.

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. There I met Lee-Anne and Ann Southwood, a Peeblian, newly-appointed chair of the trustees. I saw lovely cats needing rehomed especially older cats where the owner had died – although, rightly, this will not be done over the Christmas break. It still needs to raise funds to meet its £30K target so if you can, why not help them?