Between Brexit, ongoing Covid-19, the US presidential election and the prospect of a non-event Christmas, I'm not sure how many more depressing subjects we can consume as a nation.

Of course, there are some glimmers of hope, but also no certainties – the possibility of a Brexit deal, a Covid-19 vaccine maybe coming on stream early in the New Year, a safer world with a new US president and the prospect of a brief respite from lockdown to allow Christmas celebrations to happen.

Like so many of readers of The SF readers, I feel grateful for a life in the countryside, an interest in all that goes on there and a sense of freedom that urban dwellers don't enjoy.

That doesn't stop me from latching on to any glimmer of normality which comes along and it was reassuring news indeed that the Royal Highland and Agricultural Society of Scotland (RHASS) had voiced serious intentions to hold its flagship event, the Royal Highland Show in 2021, according to RHASS chief executive, Alan Laidlaw, in a comment to The Scottish Farmer (October 17 issue).

This comes as particularly good news at a time when several big agricultural societies have already made announcements to the contrary. The largest among them are the neighbouring Royal Norfolk and Suffolk County Shows, both large traditional 'agricultural early summer events, with a strong equestrian presence in the East of England.

There have been formal announcements that these shows won't go ahead, with safety, uncertainty and lack of confidence among the reasons given. Both are committed to staging smaller focused events and activities to support their core purposes when and where possible – Suffolk events include both equine and livestock shows.

Both Newbury and District Agricultural Society (Royal Berkshire Show) and Monmouth Agricultural Society have cited financial risk in such uncertain times as being the major influence over cancelling their 2021 shows. The former stated that it hoped the show would return in future years but if it did so it would be probably at a much smaller scale while the latter makes the point that show planning continues throughout the year and their committee looks forward to the next show in 2022.

As for 2020, several agricultural societies have already moved within Covid-19 guidelines, including the South of England Agricultural Society, which during the weekend of October 3 and 4 staged an autumn show and game fair, social distance style.

The Three Counties Agricultural Society held a horse and foal show on October 17, with profits going to future developments within the equine section of the Three Counties Show.

The Three Counties website makes interesting reading as it puts into context the society's charitable positioning regarding the staging of events. It read: "It is a professional and successful event organiser which achieves its charitable objectives through creating and hosting major shows including RHS Malvern Spring Festival (a partnership with the Royal Horticultural Society), Royal Three Counties Show, Malvern Autumn Show, CountryTastic, National Young Stars and Three Counties Farming Conference."

It is a society which delivers a lot for its membership, despite the fact there are no substantial permanent buildings and not even a grandstand.

Another interesting search led me to the Facebook site belonging to the Association of Show Organisers Association (ASOA) which claims to be 'the voice of the British agricultural show industry'. Well I don't know about that, but it boasts an attendance of more than 70 shows at its recent on-line Zoom-based conference.

The conference revealed some thought-provoking statistics, including the income generated by agricultural shows in 2019 valued at £128.6m and the losses due to Covid-19 assessed at approximately £36.5m. The validity of these statistics are for others to assess, however I can only assume that shows have provided numbers on personnel involved which includes some 2100 full time staff, 10,800 temporary staff and some 63,000 volunteers involved in the agricultural show industry across Britain.

The high number of those involved in delivering the shows surely can't come as a surprise to those who enjoy them.

The ASAO Conference programme listed some interesting topics and speakers including David Ingle, chairman of the showing council, an equestrian organisation which represented an amalgamation of key showing bodies formed in 2006 under the guidance of the British Equine Federation.

Its principal aim is to bring about voluntary co-operation between its members and in many ways Covid-19 has been one of the most significant galvanisers of discussion throughout its history. It was on its Covid-19 Equine Showing Council Blueprint that Mr Ingle addressed the ASAO conference.

While it can't provide show organisers a modus operandi for the complexity of full-scale, multi-faceted agricultural shows, it certainly provided (as the name suggested) a blueprint to which equine showing classes can be managed.

British Showjumping continually updates its guidance to shows and competitors, as does Scotland's overarching equine organisation, Horsescotland, which, like BHS Scotland, does a great job in keeping equestrians abreast of Scottish Government's Covid-19 restrictions.

Both RHASS PR consultant, Judith O'Leary, from the Edinburgh-based firm of Represent, and RHASS competitions manager, David Tennant, were singing from the same song sheet as Alan Laidlaw about a commitment to a RHS in 2021.

They told me recently that RHASS is currently 'looking at a number of scenarios' for a Covid-19 compliant 2021 RHS, but were unable to outline what these are. They both acknowledged that 'equestrianism plays a major part in the show's success and will feature in the line-up.' As for a stand-alone event for equestrians, the best I could get from either was that RHASS was 'looking at all possible scenarios at his stage and not ruling anything out.'

So, the good news for equestrians is that RHASS will definitely run a show in 2021. It will include much-valued equestrian competition, which is brilliant, if not comforting, news for the equestrian world as, through no-one's fault, certainly not the organisers, it was sorely missed in 2020.

We are all sufficiently covid-savvy to know that there will be caveats on how it will happen, or even if it actually does happen, especially if there remains a serious Covid-19 presence in the country in the spring, let alone summer 2021.

In terms of running an equestrian schedule at a free-standing focus event within the existing tried and tested blueprints this doesn't seem to be on the cards for now but may or may not be included in the scenarios under discussion. Patience seems to be the name of the game in the meantime.

There is nothing new in mysteries surrounding the running of RHASS, so the reluctance to reveal the scenarios under discussion doesn't come as a surprise. It certainly doesn’t say much for the gold/silver/bronze ‘clear and transparent’ decision-making structure introduced for the show’s management which is outlined on page 31 of the 2019 Annual Review.

Directors have been particularly tight-lipped in recent times regarding issues surrounding the Royal Highland Show and are unlikely to shed any light on the scenarios unless someone gives them a green light. This may be among the reasons why the current fund-raising campaign has, as I see it, embarrassingly moved into a second request for donations from members.

The initial response of 300 donations (now standing at 1000 according to its PR) is hardly a ringing endorsement for the board of directors and the society’s management team, considering that there are some 16,000 members on the books.

Having spoken to a good number of members, I personally haven't found one who has made a donation and has no intention of doing so until they know that it will be ring-fenced for the show. These are Royal Highland Show enthusiasts who want it not only to survive, but also thrive.

However, they question why a 235-year-old institution has not set aside sufficient funds to ward off all unseen dangers, albeit of which Covid-19 will likely go down in history as the greatest. On the contrary, with debts which my dad would appropriately have described as 'enough to choke a coo', directors have to question how they allowed it to become so financially exposed at this time.

As much as the equestrian exhibitors would love to take part in a full-scale Royal Highland Show, or even a scaled-down event following Covid-19 guidelines, I know that, given the circumstances, they would settle for a focus equine event.

In real terms, I know that it would need little of the governance costs allocated to a full show, there would be plenty of volunteer help to organise and run it and, in the knowledge that the money was going to a specific event, sponsorship would be forthcoming.

With copious amount of time available to all staff kept in post since the initial lock-down in March, it is inconceivable that plans have not already been drawn up to cover 'all scenarios', including this one.

This is a call to the board. who bear the ultimate responsibility for RHASS and who have it in their power to make it happen. If any good could come out of the Covid-19 crisis, it would be a change of direction for RHASS.

It is time for a change of focus towards the grass roots which, like it or not, come to the Royal Highland Show. Despite the rhetoric, the Highland is the beating heart of this charity and it's set in unquestionably the most beautiful showground in Britain, purchased in 1959 for that purpose and not as an event centre.

The show well deserves its place at the top of the RHASS priorities. Directors within the board will remember with great fondness the Royal Agricultural Show of England. Now a distant memory, we must take great care that our generation doesn't dispatch the Royal Highland Show to the same fate.