Omicron, Storm Arwen, fertiliser and feed prices are all making December 2021 a month to forget.

By the time you read this, goodness knows what lovely Christmas surprises the First Minister will have announced to further dampen the festive spirit. I can only imagine the frustrations and indeed anger felt by businesses in the hospitality and entertainment sectors at the latest twist in the Covid-19 saga.

One day they are hopeful of making up some of the losses sustained last year in the run up to the festivities and the next, with no warning, the announcement of a ‘tsunami’ of Omicron destroys their season at a stroke.

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The worst thing is, Omicron won’t be the last mutation of Covid which will affect the world. Surely we need to stop and think about how we are going to learn to live with this virus.

As far as I can see, the political interventions we are experiencing are as much about the kind of sound bite, PR-driven, 'Woke' politics that now fill our everyday lives, as about any kind of coherent, well-thought through strategy to cope with Covid-19 and still function as a country, or as individuals.

Meanwhile, despite the narrative around last week’s Scottish budget, trying to figure out what the Government’s plan for the country really looks like is becoming increasingly difficult – why? – because there isn’t one!

The SNP has an aspiration, of course, of independence, but that isn’t a plan for running the country. Increasing public expenditure on social security and welfare maybe hugely popular with recipients of this largesse, but who's going to pay for it?

Scotland’s devolved tax revenue is likely to be £750m less than needed to fund this by 2026/27, according to the Scottish Fiscal Commission and there is no plan to bridge this gap. Kate Forbes claimed in her budget speech that 'commitments to invest in our public services have taken into account the importance of a thriving, prosperous economy. Scotland’s businesses are critical to our future success as a nation. Without the business community we cannot meet our wider objectives'.

I’m sure the oil and gas sector currently being decimated on the altar of the weird political alliance with the Greens in Scotland is delighted to hear that. Just as they were five or six years ago when the First Minister promised that businesses in the oil and gas sector would be the foundation of Scotland’s prosperity for ‘decades to come'.

Shell clearly doesn’t believe this anymore when it cancelled Cambo! Delivering on election promises, on warm words and indeed 'Programme for Government' commitments, is an area SNP has struggled with for years.

It publishes targets by the dozen, but rarely meet them as we have seen in agriculture and the latest climate change targets to grab the headlines at COP26 will be the same.

The budget also saw funding for agriculture promising 'stability'. The extra Bew money I referred to a couple of months ago, is now also confirmed which, of course, is welcome.

But other than the status quo and too many farmers continuing to rely on Government handouts for a living, what is the plan? How does farming actually become more efficient and resilient to be able to contribute to tax receipts in Scotland to fund the public sector and the welfare state this Government is fixated upon? How do we stand on our own two feet?

Well, of course, there is no plan to address this challenge as the events of the last few months have shown. The silence about any kind of ag policy since the press release for COP26 about farming’s role in meeting climate change targets is deafening.

What has become obvious is the continued obsession of officials about reducing livestock numbers remains a number one goal to deliver this. Other than that, there is nothing coherent.

Recent announcements of changes to the rules for slurry storage and spreading represent a different way of skinning this particular cat, but skin it they most certainly will. Bizarrely, NFUS claimed this as a 'lobbying success'.

As ever with regulatory change, the devil will be in the detail and, just as importantly, the interpretation of the detail. NFUS believed SEPA will take a 'light touch approach' – hands up if you agree?

Truth is, the capital investment required on many suckler units and to a lesser extent dairy farms, will be so huge many will decide to throw in the towel. With cereal prices through the roof, why spend money on cows when you can sell the barley?

With fertiliser prices through the roof as well and many beef producers having been through some tough years, where is this investment going to come from in the next five years? The answer, for many, is they just won’t, or can’t face it and so cow numbers will fall.

Of course, that will suit some senior ag officials, past and present, just fine. But how will it help Kate Forbes and her claim that 'Scotland’s businesses are critical to our success as a nation'?

I presume farm businesses producing food should be included in this, but most of the time it doesn’t feel like that. Food production has somehow got totally lost in the political narrative about what the countryside is there for and what we do for society as a whole.

Investment in habitat management, woodland creation, peatland protection and other environmental improvements can only be successful if the farm businesses undertaking them are profitable. That means they need to produce and sell something.

Replacing reliance on farming support with reliance on environmental support is utter madness and will never work. Productive farming is the engine room of the rural economy.

Get that right and then Kate Forbes will see the contribution to the Scottish economy as a whole from agriculture that she so desperately wants and actually needs. The added value from food production is already well documented.

The lack of value from stand-alone environmental subsidies is equally well documented. It has to be both – food produced in an environmentally respectful, climate-friendly way.

Leading farmers by the nose with the promised continuation of support payments for the next few years to keep the natives from getting restless, under the guise of a 'just transition' (whatever that means), is in my view a total disaster. Instead of reaching the ‘Promised Land’ in 2024/25 – the end of the current funding period – this strategy will take many farmers to the cliff edge and then throw them off.

The best and more importantly, the best-funded, are already taking steps to reduce their reliance on public support in the absence of any coherent ag policy overseen by unreliable people who change their mind on a whim.

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Many others would like to, but can’t afford to; while some either don’t care or can’t be bothered worrying about it and so will be ill-prepared when the cliff edge beckons. I don’t see any organisation that clams to represent or serve the farming industry in Scotland facing up to this truth.

The FLGs tried to and got nuked, so now I guess it’s going to be the survival of the fittest, which is a pretty sobering thought.

Hopefully, the penny will drop and with fresh faces running agriculture sooner, rather than later, they might actually realise there is a different way to do this, which would offer a meaningful transitional period for farming rather than this incomprehensible 'just transition' waffle.

Indeed, it would be transformational for our wonderful industry where food (including meat), produced in a climate-friendly way, is something we are rightly proud of and the majority still value, even if the vocal Woke minority who currently rule the roost and the airwaves do not.

Have the happiest Christmas you can and stay safe – 2022 promises to be interesting!