AWKWARD QUESTIONS were this week being asked of the Royal Highland Agricultural Show Society, as its recent staff losses kicked up a social media storm ahead of a critical board meeting.

Society members and former staff have publicly called on the RHASS to give a fuller explanation of why a number of show department employees have recent left the business, with the most recent confirmed departure being show manager, David Jackson.

One RHASS member, Janice Milne, has along with other members drafted a letter expressing their concern over this exodus, and as The Scottish Farmer went to press, their intention was to send it to all show directors on Thursday, November 29.

The letter questions the rash of staff departures, and voices 'grave concerns over the financial cost, both in severance payments and legal fees and the impact this is having on the RHASS'.

Publication of the letter on social media in a bid to garner support resulted in many members sharing it online, and asking for their names to be added to the letter to show their support of its sentiment.

A separate letter has already gone to the board of directors from RHS 'stakeholder', Fiona Reed, who recalled: "The Royal Show at Stoneleigh folded at great shock to us all, with the near demise of one of the biggest and busiest agricultural societies within the country. The RHASS is not immune to such potential disaster and I challenge the RHS's directors to move hard and fast to put a stop to this potentially disastrous situation before it is too late.

"No organisation is too big or too long established to be immune to folding if run badly enough and I have such very grave concerns, and the only solution now is direct actions from the top and for all directors of the Society to be asking very big questions and if necessary speaking independently to those members of staff who have left for their personal insights into the situation behind their decisions."

Former society secretary David Alcorn contacted The Scottish Farmer to say: "There does seem to be some issue at the RHASS at present, with them haemorrhaging staff at a truly alarming rate. I am sure the number of staff who have left the business in the past 18-24 months is now into double figures.

"The recent statements from the RHASS indicate that the gaps in the team are being plugged by existing members of staff. Indeed, I understand that the two trade stand managers left the business some time ago and yet their positions have yet to be advertised," said Mr Alcorn.

"With only a small staff team, responsible for the secretariat, RHET, estates and Highland Centre Ltd., one wonders who the existing team can possibly cover these essential (and busy) roles effectively, whilst still undertaking their own day job?

However, the RHASS has rebuffed these accusations, with a spokeswoman saying: “We are concerned at the level of misrepresentation levelled at RHASS by a small number of individuals who are seeking to discredit the Society.

“RHASS is a charity undergoing change and directors have played an active part in leading this change. Decisions taken are part of a long term plan which will secure a positive future for the charity and our focus is very much on delivering another successful show.

"We have a core delivery team with a combined 35 years of show experience. These individuals are actively supported by the whole senior management team and directors with decades of show expertise. We are well resourced both in terms of experience and passion for the show," said the spokeswoman.

“The Society is a responsible employer that has robust processes in place to support its staff. As with all businesses, staff leave, this is inevitable. The Society very much values experience and we ensure succession planning is in place for key roles within the organisation.”