Sir, – Lesley Muirden’s interesting and wide ranging letter (The Scottish Farmer, May 16) makes several interesting points about the relationship between farming and nature, not least his statement that it does not have to be food production at all costs with no concern for other species.

It would appear that governments, both north and south of the Border, are fast coming round to this view as well, with reports that future support payments will only be made if there is an element of public good being delivered by farmers.

This means that farmers will have to do their bit for nature in addition to producing food. This could open up the door to schemes which really do benefit nature, rather than tick a few boxes – as has happened with some of the options contained within government conservation schemes.

As Lesley Muirden rightly states: “Nature does not respect boundaries”. This in itself provides huge opportunities for farmers to work together as 'clusters' to provide conservation management over substantial areas, which could make a real impact in terms of benefitting wildlife.

Farmers should be encouraged to join organisations like Nature Friendly Farming Network (no charge) which demonstrate in practical ways how farming alongside nature can be carried out without loss of production. There is so much that can be achieved for nature at relatively little cost and on ground which can be relatively unproductive in pure farming terms.

When governments introduce new conservation schemes as part of the post-Brexit agricultural scene, their benefits and effectiveness will be limited unless they are prepared to give equal importance to food, habitat and predator control.

If one of these three elements is missing – in the past, that has been predator control – the benefits from the remaining two elements will be severely restricted.

Colin Strang Steel

Trustee of SongBird Survival,