What an unforgettable week last week turned out to be.

The start of it for all the wrong reasons with the sudden and untimely death of my lifelong friend, Brian Dickie, of Spango. This following on from the sudden passing of John 'Robbo' Robertson. from Dumfries. and you begin to realise how human and fallible you are.

As a mutual friend of Brian said to me in the midst of all the sadness and tears, Brian, more than anyone, would want us to meet the challenges that we currently face head on and steer a path through them which is good for our industry. And he was absolutely right.

With these thoughts and emotions buzzing round my head, the week certainly improved as far as the prospects for Scottish livestock farmers are concerned – mind you, they need to!

First, on Wednesday, the Chancellor confirmed the £160m promised by the PM during his election campaign for the Tory leadership. Knowing for some weeks it was definitely coming, it has been quite frustrating to keep my counsel with the sniping in the press about this.

Secondly, there was an entertaining (did you see the pictures of Boris and the Saler bull?) and excellent farm visit to Peter Watson’s Darnford Farm, near Banchory, last Friday. The PM announced he was accepting the recommendations of the Bew Panel, which I sat on for seven months to increase Scotland’s support payments from 2020-2022 by more than £50m.

Having a private meeting with the Prime Minister and Alister Jack, the Secretary of State for Scotland, the NFUS, Peter and I round the kitchen table, was also both useful and enlightening. Brexit and the beef industry dominated the discussions and I hope this meeting allows more clarity soon on vital issues for agriculture, particularly in Scotland.

I could scarcely have imagined when I was asked to represent Scotland’s interests on the panel looking at the thorny long-running issue of convergence funding (CF), that the outcome could have turned out so positively. When the official appointment letter from the then PM Theresa May dropped through my letter box, the first thing that struck me was that I had been sold an absolute pup.

The review was specifically excluded from looking at the period 2014 to 2020, ignoring the whole argument and debate that has raged for six years about the decision in 2013 which sold Scotland short to the tune of £160m.

Secondly, the recommendations or outcomes of the review had to be fiscally neutral. In other words, there was no extra money to sort either the past problems or future challenges.

And, thirdly, the Tory manifesto had made it clear in 2017 that CAP farm support spending would be maintained in cash terms until 2022. That is to say, any changes in support payments to one of the devolved administrations within the UK would need to be funded by similar reductions for another.

So, with Brexit looming, against a backdrop of beef prices crashing and general anxiety and concern for farmers across the UK about their future, I would need to argue on the panel that if Scotland was to get more money, farmers somewhere else in the UK would need to take less. Interesting and challenging don’t come close to describing the realisation, at the start of this process, of the problems we faced.

We were also advised that the pot of money we were trying to divvy up was €63.8m for the period 2020-2022 – nowhere close to the historic claim of £160m that Scotland had missed out on in the previous six years, even if Scotland was to get a bigger share from 2020-2022.

It was immediately clear that although the Government had answered Scottish calls for a review of CF, it was little more than a fig leaf and not a serious attempt to actually sort the problem, either historically or for the future.

So the work began. How could we possibly square the circle?

Firstly, we had to ascertain the facts about how the 2013 decision by Owen Paterson was reached. So we asked for information to be released by the Cabinet Office, which Michael Gove assured me publicly would happen. My thoughts were that if we knew the history of the decision, we had more chance of sorting it.

In the event, we never received that information or anything really useful from Phil Hogan, the EU agricultural commissioner responsible for the introduction of the idea of CF. Simply, the Cabinet Office said 'no'.

Meanwhile, we were receiving hard lobbying from across the UK not to change anything. This was particularly intense in Northern Ireland, rightly concerned at the potential Brexit impacts their farmers would face. So, a lot of pressure from Scotland to increase funding, but no real basis for doing so, in the face of intense lobbying from others for the status quo.

Then an interesting afternoon spent with agricultural economists produced the ‘eureka’ moment which was to become the basis of our recommendations. Steven Thomson, of SRUC, and Andrew Moxey, who used to work with ScotGov, gave us some interesting data about the percentage of land in the UK which contributed to the UK being eligible for CF in the first place. Unsurprisingly, the majority was in Scotland.

But at last we had some objective criteria to base any changes we recommended on – facts not emotion. So huge credit to Steven and Andrew for their efforts.

In parallel, in discussion with senior Tory Ministers, I made it clear no solution to Scotland’s issues would be found without additional funding. Michael Gove ‘got it’ immediately and it was clear that any appetite for continuing agricultural support in England beyond 2022, it was for the hills and uplands. So, a glimmer of hope for a solution.

Then there was the €63.8m pot of CF to try and address. This was based on the average annual CF from 2014 to 2020. In fact, ScotGov officials pointed out that this funding was increasing annually from 2014 to 2020, meaning the final figure from 2020 should be used, not the average.

After much debate and negotiation, the panel agreed to go with this proposal. This, in turn, doubled the size of the pot to €127.6m. Scotland’s share of land attracting CF was 64% of the UK total, so we would be eligible for 64% of €127.6m.

Meanwhile, the search for a new Tory leader had begun and the opportunity presented itself to try and get extra funding commitments from the likely winner to solve both the past and future CF conundrum, without disadvantaging farmers in other parts of the UK. The rest, as a sunny day in Banchory last week proved, is history.

So, from the realisation in January that I had been sold a pup, has ended up with a great result for Scotland, not least because of the efforts of the Secretary of State, Alister Jack and Fergus Ewing deserves credit for his dogged determination not to let this issue disappear into the long grass.

He will need that same determination as the work begins to ensure that this funding reaches the recipients it was designed for – namely, active producers rearing beef and lamb in LFA Scotland. If invested correctly, it can help the current liquidity issues in the livestock sector, particularly beef.

It can also act as a stepping stone to the post-CAP, post-Brexit support that productive Scottish farmers deserve.

To quote the report so ably chaired by Paul Bew: “We want to take the opportunity, at this time especially, to underline the value of farming to local communities, to the countryside, and to the UK economy as a whole. We encourage governments in all parts of the UK to recognise this value by protecting, if not enhancing, funding for agriculture in future.”