So, the fanfare of the Royal Highland Show has come and gone.

I didn’t go, but those who did who I spoke seemed to enjoy the social interaction sadly denied for the last two years. But as an event to shine any kind of light on the future policy direction of Scottish Agriculture, it can best be described as an 'eclipse'!

The QMS Thursday breakfast apparently set the scene perfectly. The usual suspects from SG, their agencies and the Noah’s Ark roll call of those and such as those were treated to … well, a decent bacon roll! And the new CEO and chairperson telling them that Scotch Beef, Lamb and Pork were the best in the world without a shred of evidence to support such waffle. The direction of QMS under the new CEO is now crystal clear.

If they say Scotch is the best often enough, then it must be true. A strategy to improve the eating experience, particularly of beef, and regain (dare I say enhance?) the Scotch premium, I’m afraid is now no more than a distant memory.

I’ve had several phone calls from the largest finishers in Scotland who are also the largest funders of QMS and interestingly they didn’t seem to make it onto the guest list for this auspicious breakfast event. They paid for it, actually we all paid for it, but somehow didn’t get invited. Another outward, very public, sign of the real focus of what has become no more than a Civil Service department in all but name.

I hear that the results of the survey of QMS Assurance Scheme members initiated by North-east farmers have been published. Unsurprisingly, those who responded in the main thought that assurance schemes were over-bureaucratic and didn’t add value. Well, there’s a shock!

The most telling part of all of this is the total apathy that most levy payers have towards almost all these bodies that we are forced to prop up and finance.

Generally, they are so irrelevant to the majority of businesses nowadays that most serious farmers don’t actually bother any more. Paying these people to talk amongst themselves and waste our money is an irritation.

But, on the basis that the Civil Service will never lift a finger to do anything about it, why get excited about it? The old saying 'you only worry about things you can control' certainly holds true.

I’m sorry the vision some of us had for QMS 25 years ago when we prised it from the clutches of the MLC (remember it?) has been totally destroyed. It’s official, the MLC in Scotland is back!!

Nicola Sturgeon got an invite to breakfast at QMS on the Friday and the policy eclipse continued. Is there a referendum planned, I wonder, why else would she bother turning up at something to do with rural Scotland? Opaque or what!

So, no announcement of any kind on future agricultural policy direction so that farm businesses can at least have a stab at planning for the future.

The English have had a go, horrible though it is. The Welsh have had a go and it’s pretty horrible as well. But the Northern Irish have announced some really interesting policies for post 2024/25. In fact, they must have got copies of the FLG Reports for Scotland and, unlike our useless lot, have decided to implement them!

A Farm Sustainability Payment which recognises the need for continuation of an income support 'safety net' which is area based – TICK. Sound familiar …?

A Beef Sustainability Package with two parts, a Suckler Cow measure and a Beef Carbon Reduction Measure. Both of these are aimed at increasing productivity, making more efficient use of finite resources and driving down emissions.

Work will also be undertaken to explore options for support to help improve the performance and resilience of the sheep sector – TICK. Sound familiar …?

A Farming and Nature Package to try and reverse the trend of declining habitats and improve species diversity – TICK. Sound familiar …?

Farming for Carbon Measures to encourage low carbon emission farming practices. Including breeding cattle that are more environmentally efficient through the Ruminant Genetics Programme.

The use of programmes for the optimal timing of fertiliser and slurry application and establishing grassland swards with legumes and herbs to reduce nitrogen use. Biomethane and hydrogen production on-farm or using farm by-products to be supported. And a peatland rewetting strategy. TICK. Sound familiar …?

So well done Edwin Poots (NI agri minister), at least you get it. Why don’t we use some of our levy money to send SG officials, politicians, QMS et al to Northern Ireland for a week – they might learn something!

Mind you, they would have to find a ferry that works to get there!

Meanwhile, our own vehicle for delivering the equivalent of NI’s FLG initiatives, the ARIOB, as well as announcing some daft soil sampling nonsense, has apparently made major strides on policy since I last commented on it.

They have set up a Policy Department Sub Group – yes, they have, although you would struggle to make this up – and it comprises of three people: the head of land use policy at RSPB Scotland, the director of policy at NFUS, and the ex-head of agricultural policy in SG who retired some years ago.

This is a bizarre appointment – the ex-head of SG ag policy telling the current head of ag policy what needs to happen! It really tells you all you need to know about the shambles we face and the total lack of leadership and direction for our wonderful industry as a result – all despite the warm words of the First Minister at the RHS.

As an aside, all done without consultation with anyone. And, apparently, with no discussion with the ARIOB group, it seems that officials have decided that instead of three regions for future payments, post 2024/25, never mind what these payments are for, there will only be one region of land.

Can you imagine what this will look like and the carnage it will cause, even without clearly defined, detailed policies and outcomes for different sectors across different regions?

No doubt someone with no idea about how farming in Scotland actually operates (there are dozens in positions of authority, believe me), will have been told this will make the administration of any future scheme simpler. Well, good luck with that, people.

All it will actually do is accelerate the destocking of Scotland, which is gathering pace anyway as the economics of beef production in particular become even more difficult.

But then, that was always the plan – as I’ve been telling people for three years and that certainly hasn’t changed. I wonder if all the farmers from NI who bought land and moved to Scotland now wish they had stayed at home?