IN the aftermath of the 2014 referendum, it was very clear that the Tory Government in Westminster had been rattled by how close we came to taking back our independence.

Then, in 2016 Cameron’s miscalculation of the mood in England resulted in the vote for Brexit. The diverging views of the way we wanted our two countries governed, north and south of the Border, became crystal clear.

I was at the Royal Highland Show in Ingliston when the EU result came through, and my lingering doubts about where legislative authority over agriculture and environment would be held in the event of Brexit were brought into much sharper focus.

Having received fudged answers to that very question from both David Mundell and Ruth Davidson at the Scottish National Farmers Union AGM in January 2017, I suppose we shouldn’t be at all surprised that Scottish Tories are now trying to dismantle devolution and haul powers back to Westminster.

Since then, farming and food production has found itself in the front line of this assault, with the Scottish Government being pressurised to use the UK Government’s Agriculture Bill to legislate for future farming policy.

What is very worrying about the Bill’s journey through the Parliament, are the tactics being employed by some Tory MPs to try and bring Scotland into line.

I was invited to a round table discussion by my Ochil and South Perthshire Tory MP, Luke Graham.

He made the claim that unless the Scottish Government signed up to the Bill, there would be no legal framework to pay farmers in the event of no deal post-Brexit. I asked him to clarify and confirm that, which he did. He said the same thing in a letter he sent inviting me to the discussion. He further said, on questioning by another farmer, that farmers’ businesses would be harmed by the SNP Government if they didn’t sign up to the Bill.

Graham then told us that he would attach an amendment to the Bill, compelling the Scottish Government to comply, effectively forcing Scottish agriculture into a Bill that both NFUS and the Scottish Government say was clearly not written with our unique requirements being taken into consideration.

What is absolutely clear, and confirmed by the Scottish Government, is that there IS provision for payments to continue, a position that has just this week been clarified by the Law Society under questioning at the Scottish Select Affairs Committee, and exists regardless of whether Scotland signs up to the Bill or not.

In fact, all parties in the Scottish Parliament recently agreed to ensure that future legislation for rural and farming policy is made at Holyrood – without, of course, the Tories supporting that proposition.

So why have the Tories been telling their constituents that payments can’t be paid?

Some might say that all is fair in politics but it seems to me that what Graham was doing was totally inappropriate. He was prepared to mislead his constituents, frighten them with veiled threats of withheld support payments to score political points. And quite frankly, there are enough real scary prospects in this Brexit bourach without the Tories inventing more.

Furthermore, a UK agricultural Bill which makes no mention of food production, when food and drink is Scotlands fastest growing sector, is clearly not what Scottish agriculture needs.

The Scottish Government not signing up to the Bill is not a political stunt or grievance, as Graham would have us believe. It’s a genuine attempt to protect Scotland’s unique farming interests and to allow the continuation of additional support for less favoured areas and new entrants (both schemes which England did not have in this CAP).

This all ties into the Scottish Government’s drive to make the food and drink industry the biggest sector of our economy. Ambition 2030 is about growing the sector to be worth £30 billion by year 2030, employing up to one million people. It’s a drive to create collaborations that will reward the whole supply chain, including the oft-forgotten primary producers.

Scotland’s Rural Economy Secretary Fergus Ewing introduced the Simplicity and Stability consultation paper on transition arrangements for rural support after Brexit. These proposals seek to give farmers and crofters as much financial certainty as possible, while simplifying the means by which targeted support should be delivered.

It will also provide time to develop a new policy and approach for future funding which focuses on quality food production and environmental stewardship.

Scotland’s agriculture industry requires bespoke Scottish solutions, and the NFUS have, rightly, been adamant from day one that the powers over agriculture should stay in Scotland.

The UK Government’s Bill is playing fast and loose with some of those powers and, as far as the House of Lords is concerned, the Bill hands far too much power to ministers and the Secretary of State, without parliamentary scrutiny, particularly in relation to WTO trade deal negotiations.

On another matter, when quizzed about the non-return of Convergence Uplift money, Graham astonishingly implied that, in reality, it was the fault of the Scottish Government. He said Whitehall didn’t return the full amount to Scottish farmers as a consequence of hostility from the SNP Scottish Government to Westminster.

He clarified that, by saying that the SNP Scottish Government were adamant they should be left alone to govern without interference. Given what has been happening with the Agricultural Bill, then we as farmers should applaud that stance. However, what it should do, is make us as an industry ask whether a UK Government that is prepared to punish Scottish hill farmers by withholding £160m of our own money because the Scottish Government are fighting our corner, are the kind of party we should trust with anything .