The Scottish government has been urged to reconsider its plans for implementation of CAP proposals because in their current form they could push many farm businesses “over a cliff without a safety net”.

In a letter to the government’s rural affairs secretary Richard Lochhead, NFU Scotland said the proposals could undermine production in many sectors and leave agricultural businesses “looking down the barrel of a gun” at subsidy reductions at the very time the country was seeking to grow its food and drink output.

Union president Nigel Miller issued his warning about the problems involved in making the transition from historic- to area-based payments following a series of meetings attended by 1,500 farmers and ahead of a debate on the CAP in the Scottish Parliament.

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In the letter, he said NFUS had identified four priorities for the industry. These included focusing support on active farmers and actively farmed land, increasing the number of payment regions in the rough grazing area, refocusing limited rural development funds on measures creating more efficient farm businesses and “scoping” a managed response to the transition from historic to area payments.

Mr Miller said: “The Scottish government’s proposed transition plan will push many established productive farm businesses over a cliff to area-based payments in 2019, and without a safety net. A Scottish tunnel, however, could provide Scotland with managed transition and the option for the Scottish government to select a fast or slow route once the impact of a 60% or 70% move to area based payments is achieved.

“To ignore this more managed approach is not about fairness, it would be an abdication of 

The Scottish government’s consultation on CAP implementation closes at the end of February.