The Royal Highland and Agricultural Society of Scotland has confirmed that the 2020 Royal Highland Show will not go ahead as planned due to restrictions brought on by the Coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak.

The decision, taken by RHASS directors, who met virtually earlier today, is in line with the Scottish and UK Government’s policy and guidance on gatherings and social distancing.

Commenting on the decision, RHASS chairman Bill Gray said: “It is with deep regret and huge personal disappointment that I confirm the cancellation of the 2020 Royal Highland Show. The Show is Scotland’s largest outdoor event, attracting up to 200,000 people each year and is the premier showcase for the food, farming and rural industry. Plans for the 180th Show are at an advanced stage but given recent and ongoing developments, the directors and I have taken the only course of action open to us.

“Thankfully, the sector is nothing but resilient and while this will no doubt test us, I am confident that some good will come from what is a bleak and worrying time for us all. To that end, we are calling on the industry and wider partners to work with us to support each other to ensure we weather the storm.”

Adding to Mr Gray’s comments, RHASS chief executive Alan Laidlaw said: “It would be naïve to underestimate the massive impact the cancellation will have on the charity, but with the industry’s support, I have little doubt that we can, and we will, get through this. Personally, I am saddened that despite our best intentions, we are not able to stage this year’s event as we had some exciting developments planned; but in these unprecedented times we must focus on the wider issue, support the vulnerable in our communities and ensure that Scottish Agriculture plays its essential part in achieving this.”

RHASS confirmed that exhibitors and sponsors will be communicated with over the coming weeks as resources allow and ticket holders should contact the RHS’ ticketing partner, Ticketmaster for a full refund. Mr Laidlaw concluded: “On behalf of RHASS directors, I would like to thank members, exhibitors and sponsors who have contacted us with offers and expressions of support. There are tough financial times ahead for RHASS, but over time and with the backing of our members and sector partners, we will recover.”

NFU Scotland chief executive Scott Walker commented: “It is not surprising that the Royal Highland Show has become another event on the list of cancellations due to the coronavirus outbreak. The Highland Show is a fantastic four-day event that celebrates farming and rural life and its cancellation will come as a major disappointment not just to farmers from across the whole of Scotland but to everyone who visits the show.

“I know that for many of our members the event is a must attend," said Mr walker. "It is a great social event. Farmers work long hours and often by themselves, events such as the Highland Show are important for socialising and for people’s mental health.

“As every sector of society puts plans in place to mitigate the impact of the disease and social gatherings become much less frequent, I ask that everyone in the farming community looks out for one another," he said. "NFUS as an organisation will still be doing all the work our members are expecting but it will be getting done in a different way.  Members are reminded that they can contact the NFUS team on anything. 

"For those who need emotional, practical or financial support in times of need, Scotland’s rural charity RSABI is there to support people in Scottish agriculture and can be contacted on 0300 111 4166,” he added.