The National:

LAMBING season is all but over, and for my sheep and cattle-farming friends that means a welcome end to midnight calvings and 20-hour days in the lambing fields.

The grass has been almost non-existent as the weather has been anything but spring-like. Biting cold winds and thunderous rain has been the norm this year, but as usual, they battle on to make the very best job they can to produce world-class beef and lamb.

But there is a much more worrying presence on the horizon that no amount of good husbandry or much needed sunshine can alter, and that’s the actions of a UK Government who simply do not understand - or more likely don’t care - what effect their actions have on farming families in Scotland.

Running a hill farm is a precarious enough existence at any time, but the latest post-Brexit threat posed by the UK Government could be absolutely devastating. It is a toss-up who will be first to strike a deal with the UK: New Zealand or Australia.

It looks as if Liz Truss (above) is determined it will be with Australia, who are demanding unfettered access, which would mean tariff-free importation of lamb and beef.

READ MORE: Australia's zero-tariff demand to UK a 'huge threat' to Scottish agriculture

At a time when the impact of carbon footprints and food miles are becoming increasingly recognised, and Scotland’s farmers are currently reviewing every aspect of their business to meet our climate challenges, what message does it send to the industry that all their efforts will be for nothing if this deal goes ahead?

Scottish beef and lamb are world renowned for their quality, and the welfare standards our farmers adhere to are second to none. That is what we, as consumers, expect and demand.

By allowing this access to the UK market, the government will, in effect, be telling Scotland’s farmers, and consumers, that it is ok to export our climate obligations and welfare standards to somewhere else in the world. Australia, as the second largest producer in the world, will happily fill that gap.

If this deal goes through, that increased pressure on our domestic production combined with the problems facing export to the EU will be crippling.

As Martin Kennedy (above), the president of the National Farmers Union of Scotland, has made clear: “Employment, the prosperity of rural areas and our high standards should not be jeopardised for the sake of a headline-grabbing deal.”

READ MORE: This is why Scottish independence will benefit farmers all over Scotland

NFU England and Wales's president, Minette Batters, has warned that “the complete removal of tariffs on all their exports to the UK […] would make life unbearable for small British family farms". 

She also said that the UK Government’s plans “could spell the end” for small family-run farms, and warned that the “only way that UK farmers could compete is by lowering our own standards".

We know that the UK Government is in a desperate rush to get signatures on paper before the G7 meets in Cornwall next month, but they have to realise that they are dealing with real people’s livelihoods.

Farmers should note well the broken promises made to fisherfolk and see that the livelihoods of Scottish hill farmers are simply pawns in the UK’s chess games.