Sir, – For the last two weeks, headline news in The Scottish Farmer has been about the promised payments that we are all agreed on are long overdue, should the convergence uplift in payments ever be delivered.

However, that seems to be the end of the unity that Andrew McCornick pleads for in our latest edition – and little wonder given the board of NFUS proposes is so heavily weighted in one direction. Whoever put this original proposal to the board took very little if any time to look at the bigger picture.

That bigger picture takes us back to 2015 when we received our first BPS payment and how it was formulated. At that time, Defra moved money up the hills, knowing that like the rain that falls on the high ground, its benefits would find their way further down the valleys to the lowlands.

In the run-up to 2015, NFUS and Richard Lochhead took it upon themselves to do their best to ensure Region 1 recipients were on as near a level playing field as possible with their English counterparts south of the Border. This led to money being starved from Regions 2 and 3 and the introduction of the reviled Scottish Upland Sheep Support Scheme, which saw farmers on the receiving end of unprecedented, draconian penalties never seen on Scottish farms before this time.

The one and only thing in SUSSS's favour was that it did target active farmers, but after that I can think of no reason why a headage payment benefits farmers at all.

I do agree that the convergence money should remain in Pillar 1 of our payments. A successor to LFASS (Pillar 2 funded) was abandoned by Scottish Government because they did not have the IT to distribute this money, therefore I see it as incumbent on them to find this shortfall from sources other than the money promised when Boris met with NFUS last month in Aberdeenshire.

When working out ways of spending the promised money, the union should have looked at the reasons why we have land abandonment in Region 3 and now seeing Region 2 being turned from farming into forests. This is a project that will ultimately fail to achieve its objective when you consider that a hundred years from planting more than 90% of the timber grown will for one reason or another have been burnt, releasing its carbon back into the atmosphere and causing erosion of our soils, and pollution of our rivers on a grand scale when these are extracted from the land on which they were grown.

Land in these areas is being abandoned or handed over to forestry for no other reason than farming is no longer economically viable in these areas without meaningful support. A look at Caithness and Sutherland has, since the foot-and-mouth epidemic of 2001, seen sheep disappearing like snow off a dyke.

The famous one-day sale at Lairg is now just one-third of the size it used to be and this in spite of the total disappearance of marts at Forsinard, Rogart, Betty Hill and Dunbeath. In other areas, the Forestry Grant Scheme has been oversubscribed as farmers have come to realise that a way of life in the hills is no longer viable.

Did the NFUS board not look at figures published in Scottish Farm Business Survey and realise where this convergence money is needed most? Did NFUS not consider that if life is no longer tenable in our hills and uplands and that the cost to them in membership fees will curtail their own activities? The new Highland Clearances will surely carry on apace if support cannot be found for this way of farming?

Hamish Waugh