By Neil McCorkindale

Scottish Beef Association chairman

'Stability and Simplicity' is the Scottish Government's vision for the future – I don't think anyone in the industry would argue with that and the sooner we get started the better.

First let's get three people from each political party, shut them in a room, leaving their own political agendas outside the door, and tell them they will not be getting out until they are all singing from the same hymn sheet. Maybe then some stability would break out. After Brexit (or not) Scotland must have its agriculture powers devolved back to Holyrood, then its civil servants can get on with saving LFASS without having to change its name again or what it is meant to do.

A seriously enhanced beef calf scheme would be a simple option with a similar scheme for lambs. By all accounts, this would be a popular option among livestock producers (with the emphasis on producers).

Probably more important will be getting rid of an area based support scheme. Since it was implemented in 2015, almost predictably this has been a disaster for the Scottish countryside, with cattle and sheep disappearing off the hills at an alarming rate with little or no land getting freed up for young farmers or to assist the Government with its tree planting targets.

This will not change as long as long as people get paid for the amount of hectares they have on their IACS with no incentive to produce anything off them. I simply cannot get my head round why some organisations think moving support payments away from production would create stability and fairness. The exact opposite would be true. Supporting production in the way I mentioned previously would force land owners to employ or enter into partnerships with young farmers, and ensure the land is actively farmed and producing to the best of its capabilities.

Getting rid of area based support should also be the end of the ridiculous mapping system as we know it. There is nothing simple about measuring parcels of land then knocking point-something of a hectare off for fear of over claiming and incurring a completely non-proportionate penalty.

A much revamped rural development scheme is next on the simplicity hit list. Do away with at least half of the 11 schemes and replace them with a good old fashioned capital grants scheme. This would do more for the rural economy and help new entrants more than anything that is currently there. Of course, unlike in the past, there would be environmental and climate change boxes to be ticked. No problem there. Draining, liming and good handling facilities are all important in our efforts to tackle climate change and would encourage good soil management.

On the subject of climate change, the farming industry should not shy away from its responsibilities but not to the extent where we cease to be a food producing country in our quest to reach targets which would change the Scottish countryside forever. Once again politics plays its part, with one party trying to outdo the other in order to be the greenest.

Thankfully I must say any discussion I have had on this in the Scottish parliament, so far, has been proportionate and sensible. More worrying is climate change issues being hi-jacked by outside organisations with their own agendas of what we should or should not eat and what kind of animals should be roaming free in the Scottish countryside. Small in number they may be, but very noisy.

QMS will have our full support as they battle for air time to get a balanced view out to the general public. I imagine this will be ongoing on behalf of the 96% of the population who enjoy a good healthy balanced diet and enjoy walks in the countryside without having to look over their shoulders for wolves or lynx.

I have got side tracked a bit from stability and simplicity but lets all hope the Scottish Government can deliver on their vision. I would love to think the next generation can come into the industry with their main concerns calving cows, lambing ewes, and driving tractors instead of the speed (or lack of it) of their broadband as they try to get on-line to see if the latest 90% loan of their own money has arrived in their account.

Even this generation might yearn for the days when the cheque arrived in the brown envelope, on time and all 100% of it. All we had to do was take it down to the local branch, which no doubt is no longer there, and hand it to our local manager. Now that was simplicity and stability.

A Happy New Year to everyone and look forward to seeing you all at Old Meldrum in May.