The SNP risks letting down farmers with their proposed reforms of the funding given out under the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) in Scotland.
This could see some farmers lose more than 50 per cent of the financial support currently received from Europe.
Under the new CAP, the payment system is being changed to a fixed amount of money per hectare of land, but each nation has some flexibility over how to implement the change.
In Scotland, there are vast differences in the quality of land across the country.
Despite this disparity, the SNP is suggesting that CAP payments should be based on only two types of land.
Under their proposals they would have two ‘regions’ – one which would include arable and permanent grassland and the other which would be for just rough grazing.
The consequence of this would be that for areas of rough grazing land, the quantity of livestock on it would be largely irrelevant to how much funding support a farmer receives.
The Scottish Conservatives are putting pressure on the SNP to agree to an absolute minimum of three ‘regions’ under the new CAP to take account for Scotland’s unique landscape.
This could mean further splitting rough grazing into two separate regions.
Scottish Conservative Rural Affairs spokesman Alex Fergusson MSP said:
“All the evidence there is points toward a preference for more payment regions rather than fewer.
“The only reason there can be for having fewer than three regions is for ease of implementation but, while I accept there has to be a balance, the possibility of active, productive farmers losing up to 70 per cent of their current support under the reform is simply unacceptable.
“Simplicity is not a good enough reason for introducing any system.
“The balance Cabinet Secretary Richard Lochhead must seek to achieve is between fairness to existing farmers and achieving a genuine area-based system of support.
“Having just two regions cannot deliver that balance.”