SCOTLAND'S iconic farming event, the Royal Highland Show, is a walking a tightrope at the moment on a very thin thread worn so by the very many threats posed by the Covid-19 pandemic and the measures put in place to curb its spread.

The organisers, quite rightly, want it to go ahead – indeed, financially, they probably need it to do so. The SF believes that a final decision will be made in March as to whether disease rates and the vaccination process combined will be enough for organisers to give the event the thumbs up.

There has been some social media chatter about this decision and not all of it favourable. However commendable it is to give this superb event every chance of happening, there are other considerations. One is the availability of the infrastructure needed for such a large gathering, like hotels and other accommodation that would be needed. Will there be enough?

There might also be the need to limit numbers to comply with any regulatory process that might be in place at that time. Will those who have already spent money on tickets be first in line? – and just how aggrieved will those be who didn't buy the early-bird tickets?

The answers to these questions will be a highly tricky one for the, until now, very good public relations that the RHASS enjoys with its members and others who support the show.

Let there also be no hiding from the fact that, even if it does go ahead, it will not be a Royal Highland Show as we have come to know it. There might well be a limit to the number of animals forward; there will definitely not be the same level of trade stand support; and there will, undoubtedly, be constrictions on the likes of restaurants and bars. Will the famous kist parties be allowed?

It will be the true magic act if RHASS can successfully pull this rabbit out of a hat and keep everyone happy.

Yea or Nay?

KEEPING everyone happy in the brave new post-Brexit world is another hurdle for Government.

There are whispers coming from Whitehall that GM technology might have some role to play in the 'new' agriculture, but already there are mounting barriers against it.

To have any chance of hurdling over this, then the industry itself has to decide: a), whether it really wants it; and b), whether it is prepared for a dogged fight for the hearts and minds of consumers. Already the Naysayers are building a case and this week an alliance of different factions have come together to tell supermarkets to 'lead the way' by boycotting GMOs.

Their joint letter asked retailers to refuse to stock products made from untested and unregulated genetically engineered plants and animals even produced by using the new technique called ‘gene editing’, which many in the industry see as a plausible way of introducing 'good' genes into crops that, for instance, would inherently stave off the worst effects of drought and pestilence.

If the industry wants to be a Yea-sayer, then it has to do it quickly and with some resonance to allow it not to be left behind. And it needs to be a joined up approach.