WHILE it might be possible to understand the reasoning behind the RHASS decision to not allow cash payers entry to this year's Royal Highland Show, it has also equally understandably left a sour taste in the mouths of those who have supported it through what has been a tough couple of years for it – and everyone else.

Given that 50,000 people can attend a football match with few, if any checks and balances with regard to Covid regulations, then it's hard to understand why the same amount of people in one day cannot attend a largely outdoor event in two months' time while spread across 100-odd acres or so. You can see, then, why there's a lot of flak flying towards RHASS, which includes its decision to hold what will be relatively unfettered access to music events during the week of the Highland.

Part of the success of the event in recent times had been to encourage the general public to attend and take in the rich tapestry that the show, undoubtedly, presented from all aspects of the farming industry. It does have, after all, a key charter within its charitable status to further the knowledge and understanding of agriculture in Scotland. It aspired to and had become no better place to achieve that aim, most visibly through its association with the educational charity, RHET.

The fact is, attendance at the Highland Show, for many, is not a planned visit but quite often a spur of the moment decision depending on workload, finances and, of course, the weather – that great imponderable.

Does this change of policy affect this? The answer would be 'undoubtedly yes' and there are some who are openly questioning the wider motives for this on social media. Members are also understandably confused by the arrangement whereby they have to designate their chosen day(s) at the show.

What is irking them is the fact that there does not seem to be any recognition of the fact that there may be business pressures at home that mean they cannot attend on a particular day that they may have chosen several weeks earlier. Due cognisance should have been taken of the volatile nature of a working farm.

Maybe it is part of the plan to have every member sign up for every day so that 'attendance' numbers can be maintained? But this decision flies in the face of that and it would be a sad day, indeed, were the show to become classed as a members' only event. That would be a very dangerous outcome and we must remember that, not too long ago, one of the biggest and most prestigious farming events in the world calendar, the Royal Show, had gone from hero to zero in 10 years.

We are reminded of the famous Caledonian MacBrayne skipper who was quoted thus: "We would have a very efficient ferry service if it wasn't for the bliddy passengers." Let's hope that those who attend the Highland are never viewed merely as 'passengers'!