HOW and why governments channel money to farming is very much in the spotlight this week, as the Scottish industry chews over both the fledgling run of the Sustainable Agriculture Capital Grant Scheme, and the uncertain future of that old favourite, the Less Favoured Areas Support Scheme.

Of course, we are preaching to the converted here when we note that financial support for farming has, since the World Wars, been firmly based on an economic system that provides the populace with cheap food – sometimes cheaper than it costs to produce, hence the need for support – so that they may have money spare to spend on the less essential consumer goods and services that underpin modern capitalism.

Most consumers don't know that – and many politicians prefer to pretend not to – so we find ourselves in the odd position where farming has to burnish its environmental contribution to justify a share of the national budget, rather than relying on the common sense argument that it keeps everyone well-fed, despite the comparatively low returns offered to primary producers by supermarkets regularly turning profits running into the billions.

Nonetheless, here we are, and it seems that a good old groundswell of Scottish farmers looked at the modest offerings of the SACGS green agri-tech purchase scheme and decided to embrace it. There is some division, in that early adopters of efficiency recording and environmental sensitivity see nothing new for themselves in SACGS, but they may have to accept that there is value for the entire industry in a 'levelling up' of its less progressive participants, and look to the next, hopefully more ambitious, iteration of the scheme to give them something more personally useful.

But while SACGS will most certainly come back bigger, there is no guarantee that the LFASS will be restored to its former levels, having suffered a decline under the unfortunate coincidence of an EU budgetary wind-down, the upheaval of Brexit, and ongoing tension between Holyrood and Westminster over the division of both agricultural decision-making and spending power.

NFU Scotland this week made a solid case for why the 2018 funding level of £65 million should be restored, pointing to the billion-or-so pounds of red meat business that has its roots in Scotland's hills, and the literally vast contribution of hill farming to communities, landscapes and environment. As union LFA committee chairman Robert Macdonald noted, farming is the 'glue' that binds rural Scotland, and may be taken for granted only so long as it holds together those invisible seams. No politician with an eye on the long-term health and wealth of Scotland PLC should skimp on the essentials.