SOME ADMINISTRATIVE quirks have plagued Scottish farming for so long that they’ve become part of the furniture, as familiar to us agri-hacks as an old comfy chair, sat in the corner at industry press conferences, awaiting a wee plumping of their cushions at question time, but not expected to go anywhere anytime soon.

The issue of the red meat levies lost to Scotland’s industry when livestock cross the border for slaughter was definitely one of these hardy perennials, and it was a rare occasion when QMS dynamo Jim McLaren could speak to the media without levy ‘repatriation’ being raised, whether by him or by them.

Equally persistent was the sheep sector’s grievance over the precautionary rules governing which lambs were deemed old enough to be at theoretical risk of harbouring a Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathy that might, equally theoretically, pose a risk to consumers, and therefore required their carcases expensively split at slaughter, for spinal tissues to be excised.

So it is with a mild feeling of disorientation that I must this week ponder significant movement with regard to both these TSF news page regulars, the former suddenly subject to a Defra-backed amendment in Westminster’s nascent Agriculture Bill, the latter abruptly improved by an eminently sensible rule change – again by Defra – that will save everyone a lot of faff digging about in lambs’ mouths, and perhaps even some money.

Of course neither of these small but significant breakthroughs just happened – there’s been a lot of work going on behind the scenes even when the agricultural press has been looking elsewhere, distracted by louder arguments. Picking away at a seemingly permanent problem only looks futile until the power of persistence gets results, and all praise is due to those who did the persisting.

But now the feng shui of Scottish farming’s news agenda has been disrupted, anything seems possible! Maybe Defra, whilst in the grip of whatever pre-Brexit mania rattled this week’s surprise results out of them, should be asked again about that mis-directed convergence cash? It could be in our hill farmers’ banks by Christmas!

Has anyone called the RSPB to see if, after a cup of tea and a wee sit down, they’ve realised that some of the Birds they are Royally endorsed to Protect are in most danger from the abundance of ravenous ravens and buzzards they’ve helped create?

Could next year be the year when, instead of detailing ScotGov’s various stopgap loans and support payment advances, us agri-hacks get to report that the rural payments computer is actually doing the job for which it was created?

But I’m getting carried away here. As we go to the printing presses this week, Prime Minister Theresa May is holed up in Number 10 trying to convince her Cabinet to endorse her Brexit deal. They’ve been in there two hours longer than scheduled already.

I fear there is one persistent problem that we won’t be seeing the back of any time soon...