A NEW intake of Tory MPs was ushered into Scottish seats back in June, and the fact that they were largely voted into rural constituencies would suggest their message somehow resonated with sectors of the farming and fishing communities, who believe that Brexit and the Tory government will work for them.

But as a hill sheep and cattle farmer I personally can see nothing but pain and hardship heading my way. As a result, I have taken steps to ensure my future is not devastated by Tory actions. Mitigating bad Tory policies is becoming the norm up here in Scotland.

The Tory Environment Secretary Michael Gove is apparently going to review the decision to share “EU convergence uplift money”, the vast majority of it destined for hill farms in Scotland, across the whole of the United Kingdom’s farms instead.

This review was allegedly at the behest of one of the new Scottish Tory MPs, Alastair Jack, who was concerned for his constituent farmers. In fact it looks to me like nothing more than a PR stunt to make the new Tories seem relevant.

I say that because if they were serious about looking at the issue, they would have done so when Calum Kerr, the former SNP MP for Berwick and Roxburghshire, made it his weekly crusade to get the money returned to Scotland. The UK Government consistently kicked the issue into the long grass.

Let’s look at the rationale behind the Jack intervention. He said: “An independent figure should be appointed to ensure Scottish farmers receive a fair settlement.”

Scottish farmers, NFU Scotland, the Scottish Government, and every other party in Holyrood, said the distribution of the EU convergence cash handed to the UK Government in 2013, was unfair.

This extra EU money had been given to bring Scottish hill farmers up to at least the average per-hectare payments of all the other EU countries.

Because of the unique nature of farming, and particularly hill farming in Scotland, the per-hectare payments across the whole of the UK were below the EU average.

In fact, Scotland had the lowest payments across the entire EU, but that pan-UK average is a clumsy and distorted measure of the reality of per-hectare payments.

Farms in England and Wales were by and large receiving well above the EU average, but when you added the vast hectarage of Scottish hill and upland farming, it brought the entire UK average down. Therefore, in the spirit of fairness and goodwill, an extra €240 million was awarded to the UK to distribute to these Scottish hill farms. The UK Government was free to do with the money as it pleased, as long as it went into agriculture, because the EU does not interfere with internal issues of member states.

However, the UK Government did not work in the spirit of the EU gesture and hand the cash to the Scottish Government to give to us hill and upland farmers. Instead, it claimed Scottish farmers have the highest per capita payments across the UK. There are two very significant points to be made about this assertion.

Over the past decade or more there has been a very significant rise in the number of contract farm agreements being created in Scotland. Contract farm agreements come in many different forms, but by and large mean that the landowner is regarded as the farmer, and therefore the sole claimant of any subsidy due to be paid on that land.

Very large estates may have many different contract farm agreements, but all the subsidies all paid to one claimant – the landowner – who then distributes the cash to all his contract farmers. It means a single claimant may well support five, 10 or even 20 farming businesses and families, but the claim looks, and is recorded as a single claim.

So the assertion by the UK Government that Scotland has the highest per-capita claims may be technically correct, (I’m not saying that they are because it has never been challenged), but the reality is that the funding is much more widely spread across the farming community. The system has its faults and there are undoubtedly arguments to be made about recipient eligibility, but it is irrefutable that the UK Government has effectively taken £14,000 out of the pockets of each hill farmer across Scotland.

The second, and more crucial point, is that the UK Government can’t just decide that they will change the methodology to measure claim entitlement. If the EU measure of per-hectare payments is the recognised one and the UK Government accept the EU cash on that basis, changing it to suit their own ends shows utter contempt for the EU and a total lack of respect for Scots farmers.

The upcoming review Gove is due to announce shortly will look at the fairness of the system for future funding and will look to make sure “Scotland receives its fair share”.

That in reality means of course the €230m will not be returned to Scotland, and I would suggest that Scottish farming braces itself for another sting in the tail.

If this much-vaunted review is to look at future funding so that Scotland gets its “fair share” who will define “fair”? If fairness is defined by discussions in the Tory echo chamber, do you think they will deem it fair to continue to give Scotland’s farmers the 16 per cent of the total agricultural budget they currently receive, or will it be “fair” to bring it into line with the Barnett formula and cut the budget to 8.6 per cent?

Given the track record and rhetoric coming from the Tory government just now, I don’t have much faith in the outcome for Scotland’s farmers. Here’s hoping I’m wrong.