NEITHER OF the Brexit scenarios now under discussion will end well for Scottish farming, according to former top Scots Tory Struan Stevenson, who this week suggested that the industry should add its voice to calls for the UK to remain a full member of the EU.

“When a hard Brexit means hurtling over the cliff’s edge and a soft Brexit means paying for EU membership but having no say, it is time to call a halt," said Mr Stevenson, who retired as an MEP in 2014, having represented Scotland in the European Parliament since 1999.

“Let us hope that Scotland’s farmers will add their voices to the growing nationwide clamour for a re-think on the calamitous course that the UK now seems to be pursuing.”

Mr Stevenson highlighted his fears for Scottish farming after – at the summit of the G20 group of industrialised nations – US President Donald Trump talked about a achieving a new agreement on trade with Britain “very quickly”. This, said Mr Stevenson, was fair warning that US beef, produced with hormone growth-promoters, and chlorine-washed chicken, could soon be piling up in UK supermarket chiller cabinets.

Quality Meat Scotland have already warned that a US trade deal could mean a “downward spiral” for Scottish farmers, as the specialised, high-quality healthy grass-fed beef they produce cannot compete on price with US meat, particularly if this market competition came just as Scottish farmers faced potential barriers to their trade with traditional export markets in the EU.

Mr Stevenson said: “The Brexiteers also claim that the EU’s protectionist policies discriminate against cheap food imports and force up food prices for British consumers. In other words they want cheaper food following Brexit.

“That means throwing open UK markets to cheap food from Africa, Australia, North America, Brazil, and Argentina, causing chaos for UK farm gate prices, a further fall in land values and widespread bankruptcies. UK food self-sufficiency would plummet.”

Worse, he warned that farmers would face this price crunch as the subsidies currently paid by the EU came to an end, and agri-policy shifted into the hands of an austerity-driven UK Government.

“Only the super-efficient, top 10% of farm businesses could survive without them," said the former MEP. "Most farmers have thin margins, if they have any margins at all. The European Commission estimates that land prices would fall by 30% if farm subsidies were totally abolished in the UK and they would fall sharply if subsidies were reduced. For farmers who have taken out bank loans against the value of their land, a loss of value could be fatal,” he added.

Commenting on this outburst, NFUS president Andrew McCornick said of Mr Stevenson: "He is being a bit extremist. What we are asking for is a transition. We have built up a high standard in Scotland and that standard needs to be maintained.

"Michael Gove has already stated he would not allow substandard products to come in and flood our market and we would consider (chlorine-washed chicken)substandard," he added.