COVID-19 HAS had a devastating impact on the Royal Highland and Agricultural Society of Scotland’s finances, with the society reporting a £4million drop in income in 2020.

However, thanks to government support, fundraising efforts, new income streams and expenditure cuts, the society has limited its actual losses to £0.3m.

2020's ‘no Show’ year and the mass cancellation of events scheduled to take place at the Royal Highland Centre, have been the main contributors to the 44% loss in income, down from £9.01m in 2019 to £5m in 2020.

But this number could have been far higher if it weren’t for income generated by the NHS vaccination centre and Royal Mail Lettings taking place during the pandemic, a government resilience grant, furlough payments and insurance compensation.

RHASS also took steps to cut expenditure, including pay cuts for senior management, redundancies and the postponement of planned upgrading which contributed to a drop in expenditure of 46% to £5.28m compared to the previous year's outgoings total of £9.75m.

Contributions to the ‘Save Your Show’ appeal and funds received through the capital campaign raised £526,000 which helped mitigate losses.

RHASS chairman, Bill Gray, commented: “Whilst any deficit is disappointing, to constrain our losses to £0.3 million in the context of a global pandemic and a £4 million drop in income is a vindication of decisions and actions taken by the board and team, recently and over the longer-term.

“There has been a gigantic effort by our membership, volunteer RHASS directors, staff and the wider agri community, which has ensured the society has so far weathered this challenging time not only intact, but emerging stronger for the future.”  

RHASS chief executive Alan Laidlaw said that Covid-19 had not only threatened the RHS but also the society at large: “The pandemic could not have come at a more crucial time for the organisation, poised as it was to reap the benefits of significant investment in facilities, including our new multi-use events venue which was completed on the eve of the first lockdown and on the back of our record-breaking 2019 show.

“Our membership showed their support of the society through retaining and renewing their membership, taking out life membership for family members and of course donating to the Save Your Show campaign. I am so proud and humbled to be able to say that, thanks to their efforts, the actions of our trustees and the diversification of activity, the show has been saved.” 

Mr Laidlaw concluded: “We cannot shy away from the fact that we are facing a very uncertain future with continued challenges posed by the ongoing global coronavirus pandemic, however we will remain focused on the job in hand and we give our commitment to membership that, with their continued support, we will come out of this time a stronger, more resilient organisation able to support future generations of farmers and agri businesses.”  

In March 2021, RHASS received news of an interim cancellation insurance payment of £1.8m against a claim for the financial year of £2.2m. The Society’s full cover under this policy is for £2.5m, covering the cancellation of the 2020 and 2021 Shows, and it has stressed that it intends to pursue the remainder of the claim in the coming financial year.