The Royal Highland and Agricultural Society of Scotland is calling on members to ‘get behind’ the charity as it gets to grips with the financial impact of the 2020 show cancellation and the decimation of its events business, the Royal Highland Centre, as a result of restrictions imposed by the Coronavirus.

The news to cancel what would be the 180th Royal Highland Show came on the eve of the handover of the keys to its new multi-million pound events space and Members’ Area, which was completed ahead of schedule in advance of this year’s Show.

The landmark building has been designed to serve as a hub for the agricultural community outwith the Show, as well as a state-of-the-arts commercial events space. The venue had already secured a number bookings, including a wedding – however the Coronavirus wiped out not only the country’s celebration of food, farming and rural life, but also the many other events scheduled to take place at the RHC for the foreseeable future.

This loss of income from the RHC – income which last year exceeded £1.5 million – combined with the loss of revenue from the Royal Highland Show – estimated at £4.8 million – will see challenging times for RHASS in the coming months.

Chief Executive Alan Laidlaw said: “RHASS Directors embarked on a planned programme of investment in our existing infrastructure that would see the Royal Highland Centre fit for purpose to host world-class events, including the Royal Highland Show. This included a new Members’ area and agri-industry hub which is now complete.

"The strategy was robust and designed to secure RHASS’s financial stability for the long-term and we were already seeing its positive impact with an increase in events scheduled to take place over the coming months. The reality is the Coronavirus has had a catastrophic impact on our events business and we will need to take tough decisions so we can continue to deliver against our charitable remit, while protecting the future of the organisation.”

RHASS was set up to protect the interests of farmers and rural industries in 1784 and throughout this time it has remained true to its founding principles. Last year, RHASS distributed over £328,117 in grants and awards and is the major financial supporter of the Royal Highland Education Trust – the educational charity RHASS founded twenty one years ago.

Adding to Alan’s comments, RHASS Chairman Bill Gray said: “RHASS has seen some turbulent times throughout its long history, including foot-and-mouth, which resulted in the cancellation of the 2001 show. However, thanks to careful stewardship, the Society came back stronger from this set-back and increased its impact and influence on the sector over the succeeding years. I have no doubt this will happen again, and quickly, if we come together as an industry to make it come about.

“Our focus over the coming months is to look at how we bridge the financial gap we are faced with, while still contributing to the success of the agricultural and rural sectors through our grants and awards. Without doubt the events business will restart once restrictions are lifted and we are preparing to take advantage of this. We are, however, also speaking to our partners and sponsors to see what part they can play to support us during this unprecedented time.”

The Directors are also calling on the RHASS membership to continue demonstrating their undoubted commitment to the charity. Bill added: “It has been heartening to see the response have had from our members who understand that the coming 12 months will be challenging. As we demonstrated during our roadshow campaign last autumn, memberships are the lifeblood of the organisation and we urge people to continue to support us so we that can maintain our charitable work that goes way beyond what is visible during the four days of the Royal Highland Show.

"RHASS membership is not just a four-day show ticket – it is so much more than that and helps us to deliver our support to the industry which of course includes RHET, a vital part of the agricultural scene.“

RHASS is asking people to demonstrate their support for the sector and to the Society by renewing their membership, joining for the first time, leaving a legacy in their will or supporting the organisation through donations, sponsorship or partnerships.

Bill added: “It is during tough times that great things can happen and I have every confidence that the membership will get behind us so that we can continue to help shape our agricultural industry for future generations. We are all in this together and together we will come through it.”