Sir, – I have to admit that last week's front-page headline of The Scottish Farmer, 'Go for growth', is not an idea that I would agree with at all.

Yes, we need to be profitable if we are going to carry on farming, but not through headage payments which would stifle the progress and development of livestock farming.

When we first moved from headage payments to an area based payment, QMS ran a series of events across Scotland called EBV (Estimated Breeding Value) workshops where one the main speakers was a gentleman of whom I have the utmost respect, Rod McKenzie, who said: “Gone is the time where we keep sheep, sheep now have to keep us.”

It was a time when farmers took the opportunity to weed out non-productive sheep and only breed from sheep that were going to make a positive difference to their breeding programmes.

Headage payments would see a return to a retention period which, when it ends, historically saw trade distortions. It would see us keeping stock of a quality that we wouldn’t dream of now. Furthermore, it would also mean there would be a need for on farm inspections by government officials whereby the public can be assured that their taxes are being spent in an honest way.

I am sure we are all familiar with the term 'Never mind the quality feel the width?' Farmers are suppliers of food to the rest of the nation and it is up to us to breed sheep that are capable of producing what our customers want. That's 'quality' and at the end of the day producing anything less will only undermine the average price that we receive for our labours.

A return to headage payments would drive farmers into a numbers game which has in the past brought criticism from the environmentalists.

The politicians of this country are unbelievably lucky, the vast majority of people who vote for them don’t actually need to grow the food their families eat, and when they buy their food in the supermarket, they leave there with a larger percentage of their wages than anyone else in the world – with the exception of the US and Singapore.

This gives them the freedom to spend an incredible 91.8% of their wages on whatever else they want and it is a freedom that is very much taken for granted in our consumer-driven economy.

At the other end of the scale is Nigeria whose population spend 56.4% of their wages on food, according to data supplied by the World Economic Forum.

It is time politicians woke up to the fact that their beloved consumer-driven economy may well look fine and dandy but in June, 2016, 52% of the electorate voted that we should follow an isolationist policy where we risk no longer having free trade with our neighbours and we no longer want an influx of people from Eastern Europe who are willing to do the jobs our own citizens won’t do.

SAMW will be well aware that, already, Brexit has left them with the headache of not being able to source a willing workforce. And this is before we have actually left the EU.

Quite rightly, SAMW identified that a lack of profitability in the farming industry is leading to fewer livestock being available. The evidence is clear to see on our highest hills, where land abandonment has seen several seasonal auction marts close due to there being no sheep left for them to sell.

Politicians across the board have to stop taking the farming community for granted and although food inflation may be their worst enemy, they need to come up with a plan that will encourage us to produce quality food at a price that either recognises how much it costs to produce, or find a way of compensating us for income foregone with the onus on producing what the market requires.

Trump’s America is, for the time being, at least following isolation policies. But, at least Trump has the luxury of being virtually self-sufficient in food.

The UK does not have this luxury and therefore must find a way of ensuring its farmers are recognised for the work that we do.

In 2016, the UK voted to come out of the EU, which as I have already eluded to brings us into an area of isolation to some degree? If an isolated UK becomes reliant on other countries for its food, we become beholden to those countries, I have to ask the question, how wise it is to follow this policy when with a little encouragement and the promise of a fair return for what we do, our farmers have the ability and willingness to produce so much more than we do at present?

As a hill farmer, the thought of us leaving the EU has always filled me with dread, but on the plus side, Brexit will give our political masters the opportunity to write a new set of rules that direct money away from slipper farmers to active farmers. It also gives them the ability to direct money from Pillar 2 to Pillar 1, supporting food production, should there be a wish to maintain two pillars of support payment.

But please, please, NO headage payments.

Hamish Waugh