As a beef and sheep farmer and an agronomist of 20 years, over the last few weeks I have been getting progressively uneasy with the direction rural Scotland and specifically agriculture is getting herded – without much pushback from NFUS, industry bodies, MPs and MSPs.

Are we sleepwalking into new rural clearances? Will the bleat of the big sheep of the last clearances be replaced with the silence of Sitka on our hills, glens and even lowland ground? Are the aristocratic lairds of old getting replaced by a new generation of green lairds and the green-washing of large corporations using our hills and glens to offset their own carbon emissions or carry out their own climate based whims?

Agricultural land in Scotland is scarce – only 15% is non LFA and only 25% of the rest is better grazing. We can ill-afford to lose it to other land uses – it is time for us to push back!

I could have filled four essays on all that was wrong with the direction we are headed – the headlong ill-thought-out drive towards tree planting at any cost, the spiralling cost of land driven by the green lairds and carbon offset corporations, the loss of local homes to second home owners and absentee multi property house investors for property lets, the dog's breakfast of the proposed new agricultural support measures (how to take complete buy-in by industry on a serious and sensible set of measures proposed by the Farmer-Led Groups – and turn them into not even a Track 1 or Track 2, but the wrong track).

However, I have limited space, so we have to go back to first principles. Scottish agriculture, food and rural industries have a great story to tell, we have it within us to sell our country on sustainable rural industries and possibly even carbon net zero beef, lamb and products.

But we need rural industry and Scottish government to work towards that end. Everything we do and every policy we progress should be based on scientific fact and not a group-think that seems to be driving policy at present.

If we are to promote our products properly and subsidy is to get paid on our carbon performance, then the tools that measure this must be fit for purpose. There is an old saying that farmers buy retail, sell wholesale and pay haulage both ways – that is how the present carbon calculators are working.

They only take account of one side of the carbon balance sheet and do not take account of our products that we produce that should be on the next users' carbon balance sheet, or the C02 we sequester. The current carbon calculators are full of anomalies.

A few examples:

On the arable side, a crop of wheat is allocated carbon used in the purchase of fertiliser and other inputs – yet the wheat grain and straw is 40% sequestered carbon which is 'exported' from the farm to the end user, and is not counted as a carbon offset and charged to the next user.

So, a 10-tonne crop of winter wheat with two tonnes of straw, should have a 4.8-tonne carbon offset every year (a tree growing on the farm and cut down and sold does have a carbon offset, no matter if its kept in a timber frame house for a 100 years or burnt in a stove).

It also means that the better the wheat yield, the better the carbon offset and the lower the cost in net CO2 to produce each ton of wheat.

On the livestock side, no proper account is taken of the grassland sequestration of carbon into the plant or soil and the management of the grassland. Some 60% of the dry matter of grass is carbon in form of lignin. As above if grass is cut as hay and exported off farm – it should have a carbon offset.

Also, as there are no cultivations on permanent grassland there is also sequestration into soil carbon – however, there is no account taken of the sequestration itself never mind the management of the grass.

For example, a large 20ha experiment by Virginia Tech, in the US, showed that moving from set stocking on grassland to rotational grazing in a paddock system, increased livestock output, doubled the soil carbon sequestrated and reduced the carbon footprint of the beef from 32kg to 24kg CO2eq per kg beef.

On the 'Answers on a postcard' side (according to a leading carbon calculator)

• No carbon sequestration by permanent grassland;

• Uncultivated field margin sequesters 0.198 tonnes CO2/ha (does it make sense versus permanent grass?);

• Rough permanent grassland at 0.18 tonnes CO2/ha (makes sense versus uncultivated field margin?);

• Grass buffer strip 3.67 tonnes CO2/ha (does that mean permanent grass does the same?);

• Beetle bank equals 3.67 tonnes CO2 (as above? Any different to rough grazing?)

• Wood pasture and parkland 0.48 tonnes CO2 /ha (so a mix of trees and grass is worth less than grass alone as in a grass buffer strip?);

• Ploughed in farmyard manure has a carbon charge due to methane and nitrous oxide emissions (fair enough) but no carbon offset for the carbon in the FYM that contributed to soil organic matter and soil carbon.

If the carbon calculators worked correctly, farms should have carbon charges for all the various inputs and emissions but should have carbon offsets for their produce and sequestration by plants.

Only then can we work towards diverse farms and follow informed policy to produce the climate outcomes we all want. Only then can agriculture benchmark themselves properly against blanket forestry and these other land uses and show that a diverse farm environment is better for people and employment, better for biodiversity and better for Scotland’s world-renowned food, drink, tourism and rural businesses.

The push back must start with the first building block – the facts.