Regulations requiring sheep movements to be recorded on an individual basis would be the final straw for thousands of producers, according to National Sheep Association chief executive Peter Morris.

Speaking in Perth this week at the NSA’s Scottish conference, Mr Morris warned the impact of regulation was already having a profound and crippling effect on the sheep industry, which has contracted by 15% in Scotland in the past five years.

“What is so frustrating is that everyone can live with rules if they understand their logic, practicality and proportionality but so many of the regulations are impractical, unworkable and disproportionate,” he said.

Referring to regulations relating to TSEs, individual identification and fallen stock Mr Morris said the biggest red tape threat to the industry would be the introduction of a requirement for farmers to record the individual identities of every animal every time it is moved.

He said this would see thousands of farmers walk away from the industry, arguing there was no justification for this, given animal health measures were undertaken on a batch basis.

Lack of understanding by government, particularly south of the border, was a major factor, he said, and too often industry representatives were only consulted when it was too late to influence decision-making.

Perthshire hill farmer, Alex Murray, said there were hundreds of thousands of acres of hill and upland north of Perth now devoid of sheep.

Sheep farming in these areas could offer employment opportunities to 400 young people, he said, lambasting the government’s failure to offer young people the same financial support for new entrants being offered in other EU countries.

However, quality assurance assessor, John Morison, said there were indications that progressive landowners were returning sheep to the hills in a move to control tick populations and protect the sporting quality of their property.

He said one Cairngorms estate was putting on 4500 ewes and a shepherd and other landowners should be encouraged to follow suit.