Scotland’s hill farmers are to get an extra cash boost in January in a package worth £15m to the industry over two years.

It is part of the Scottish Government’s commitment to underpinning producers in remote rural areas where cattle and sheep numbers have haemorrhaged over the last decade and producers have been leaving the industry in unprecedented numbers.

And the Scottish Government’s rural affairs minister, Richard Lochhead, has indicated even more support for the most fragile areas is in the pipeline as his department and the industry look at ways of changing the way the Less Favoured Areas Support Scheme (LFASS) works.

The windfall represents a 19% increase in payments under the LFASS and follows a review of Scotland’s much criticised Rural Development Programme last year which signalled changes to ensure support for rural areas was targeted where it was most needed.

However while NFU Scotland welcomed the extra cash as a boost to farmers on land classed as “fragile” and “very fragile” its LFA chairman Sandy Tulloch said a fundamental overhaul was essential otherwise the money would not reach Scotland’s most vulnerable farmers.

Mr Lochhead added his government would continue to make the case for continued direct support for Scottish farmers, highlighting the unique circumstances which faced the hills and uplands ahead of any changes to the Common Agricultural Policy.