Sir, – The statement by Fergus Ewing at Agriscot that there would be a 20% drop in LFASS in 2019 has been confirmed by the announcement in Derek Mackay's budget.

Were this not enough, the government has compared average LFA farm income with median households, using different measurements to imply we are better off than most. This is an insulting nonsensical comparison which does not take account of people employed, more disadvantaged scenarios, or even median businesses.

It is a shameful justification for bad planning on behalf of the government and indeed the industry, though they admit the threat to upland sheep farms has not been quantified.

To further go on and claim that Area of Natural Constraint payments is not possible because of Brexit is really stretching the truth. ANC has been possible, indeed essential for years, as we were warned to get a new system in place and our old allies in derogation, including France, now have ANC schemes.

It may be impossible to now implement an ANC given EU timescales, but the government and its plethora of 'industry advisers' have seen the wall approaching at the end of this tunnel for many years. What good is their speculation on the future when we lack the ability to deliver now (bearing in mind many of these advisers presided over ANC discussions several years ago).

The industry itself must also take some responsibility, with stakeholders unable to agree four years ago on the best form that would not disadvantage a number of well stocked beef farmers, not pay inactivity and not confuse the damned computer but government gave false assurances that ways could be found to administer any shortfall in LFASS.

We find ourselves facing a 20% drop in 2019 and an 80% drop in the allowed payment for LFASS in 2020. Instead of finding solutions for 2019 and exploring what ways we can use to deliver the #########(pound sign) 12.5m shortfall to disadvantaged farms, Derek Mackay has swooped and this sets a dangerous precedent on disregard of the importance of agricultural subsidy.

The budget is confirmed in January and at the time of writing, LFASS is potentially losing half its budget over two years. The government uses last year's clawback as a precedent but this was overturned.

I do not like these 11th hour deals which have been ruining agricultural policy for the last 15 years, but in this case we need a sticking plaster. We cannot allow even the 20% to drift off over the Christmas holidays, the industry must come out all guns blazing in January to demand that the full £65m allocated in the rural development budget until 2020 for LFA support does not get pecked at by Holyrood magpies.

We must find a way to deliver it to farms that need the support after this costly winter more than ever.

John Fyall,

Chairman of National Sheep Association Scotland