Following compulsory changes to regulations concerning the Less Favoured Areas Support Scheme (LFASS) by the European Commission, Rural Economy Secretary Fergus Ewing has confirmed that LFASS support will be retained at 80 per cent in 2019 and 40% in 2020 - the only part of the UK to continue such a payment.

Mr Ewing said: "I fully accept that this is not ideal, but under changes to EU regulations there is no option but to revise payment rates down. Importantly, we are clear this change will not impact on those who receive the minimum payment of £385, which is not being reduced.

"Our hill farmers and crofters continue to face significant challenges from both adverse weather and Brexit uncertainties and we are already seeing reduced livestock numbers and land abandonment.

"Therefore, I will continue to strongly push for further revisions and have submitted proposed amendments to give more flexibility in setting rates for 2020 - a move I fully expect the UK Government to support."

Jonnie Hall, NFU Scotland's Director of Policy said: "While the comments from Scottish Government come as no surprise, any shortfall in LFA support remains completely unacceptable to NFUS. This is currently a top priority for the Union and we continue to meet the Scottish Government to press for workable solutions to make good any shortfall.

"We believe there are both practical and legal ways forward to resolve the LFASS shortfalls for 2019 and 2020. The issue now is whether Scottish Government is willing to run with such approaches and to fully restore the £65 million LFASS budget which is more critical than ever."

Mr Hall went on: "The net result of cuts to LFASS, unless reversed, will be a significant reduction in cash-flow to our most rural communities., challenging our more extensive livestock sectors and the Scotch brand it underpins, and the risk of yet more agricultural land abandonment in some quarters.

"LFASS payments provide a vital financial lifeline to those who are trying to eke out a living from some of the hardest land in the country. For them to lose out on any of this support would not only be devastating for their businesses, but also for the natural environments which they sustain."

Market round-up

Lawrie & Symington Ltd had 808 store cattle forward in Lanark on Tuesday when heifers sold to 226p per kg and averaged 189.9p, while beef-bred bullocks peaked at 245p and levelled at 202.2p. Dairy-bred bullocks sold to 197p and averaged 130.5p.

Harrison & Hetherington Ltd sold 23 store heifers in Lockerbie on Tuesday to a top of 248.8p and an average of 191.9p, while 49 store bullocks peaked at 229.9p and levelled at 200p Five store bulls sold to 193.1p and averaged 185.4p.