The Scottish rural economy and the infrastructure that drives it is vast, but it is fast facing a massive void, due to a lack of knowledge of future planned support for farming. That’s because rural economies are inextricably linked to agriculture and a thriving industry compels many other local income streams.

That makes it a priority for politicians and legislators in Scotland, given that a considerably larger chunk of GDP north of the Border is generated by it, than in other parts of the UK. The need for a ‘plan’, therefore, takes on more significance.

It’s not all just about money. It’s mainly about people and giving them the encouragement to maintain a countryside and a framework that radiates confidence, not the least of which is maintaining the kind of country that people like to live in. By and large we have a green and pleasant land that is easy on the eye and, importantly, capable of filling our bellies. It is a delicate balance of aesthetics and practicality that really does deliver for the whole of Scotland – but this balance is easily put out of kilter.

That’s why the implementation of sound agricultural policy is a fundamental requirement to maintaining a healthy and wide-ranging rural economy. The SNP Government has made a big thing about its ‘First 100-days in Government’ promises and it’s getting closer to the big reveal of what its ‘plan’ will be for where it wants to take the rural economy. What must not happen is for yet another ‘think tank’ or committee to be set up to produce yet more ‘blueprints’ that die and fester on the vine of inaction.

By its very nature – and that’s a sound choice of word there – agriculture does not perform well under short termism. What it really needs is long term vision to allow it to adapt itself to the many challenges it faces in delivering the twin objectives of producing quality, safe food and an environment that has benefits for all.

It has become blindingly obvious that soil health is a key building block that has too often borne the brunt of short term planning. Under CAP, the set-up encouraged out-and-out yield seeking for both animals and crops that virtually raped the land of those foundations. Now, it is time to put some long term aspirations in place to right those wrongs.

It has been heartening to see that improved prices for much of agriculture’s output in the past 18 months has seen more acres re-seeded, drains fixed and more lime applied than usual. That’s all been off the back of having the money available to invest in such groundwork and how much more could be achieved by having a like-minded support policy that rewarded good farming practice, rather than encouraging the numbers game?

Taking good land out of food production and then planting trees, or God forbid, implementing dreaded re-wilding ‘projects’, is only an interim answer that does nothing for the environment and economy as a whole. What will work is Government taking a share of the risk and reward for getting farming back to sound agronomic basics, with a plan to use new technology to assist.

Now that is a long-term aspirational target worth deliberating over ...