The difficult set of financial results published by RHASS this week makes for some sober reading.

The growing gap between expenditure and income must be addressed to safeguard its future. Assurances have been given that a plan is in place to turn the financial situation around. As a charitable organisation millions in profit is not the aspiration but books eventually need to balance.

The ‘perfect storm’ is being blamed for rising costs and unforeseen deficits. There had better be some calmer seas ahead for the good ship RHASS, as another year with a multi-million deficit could make her less than seaworthy.

Increasing income over the event is particularly challenging with limited expansion in the number of attendees at a packed showground and ticket prices already appearing hefty. Innovative fundraising, new events, and sponsorship will all have a part to play, as likely to be set out in a new strategy launch this summer.

But tighter control of costs is a must to move the financial numbers from red to black. Whether the organisation will achieve a tighter grip won’t be known until April 2025.

READ MORE | RHASS funding gap revealed ahead of Royal Highland Show

None of this plays down the thousands of hours given up by volunteers and directors to run the four-day event, not to mention the show exhibitors who are the show’s beating heart. Furthermore, the charitable donations on behalf of the society pour hundreds of thousands of pounds into worthy rural causes.

There is no doubt the jewel in Scotland’s show crown will sparkle again this June, but it can’t dazzle and distract directors and staff in the task of turning around the numbers.

Speaking of sparkling, there was a scintillating debate held by NFUS in Oldmeldrum last week. The open and honest discussion between farmers demonstrated a clear appetite for reform. Hard truths are hard to hear but avoiding them is a disaster.

The Union was called upon to increase open dialogue with its members. But anyone who has followed the Presidential team on their marathon meeting runs over winter or their packed show season diary will know they certainly don’t hide.

Nevertheless in the modern day, there is greater scope to increase democracy in decision-making alongside swift publication of minutes of the board and government meetings. This would allow farmers and crofters to better engage and understand decisions. One member, one vote when voting at the AGM would also help to bring membership closer to the decision-makers.

Farm assurance similarly was on the roll call for reform, with typical bashing of red tape. This is a common theme, and the question has to be asked: how many times must farm assurance be criticised before it is scrapped and replaced from the ground up? Red Tractor is going through a root-and-branch review, and an update on progress for QMS assurance will likely be announced at the Highland Show.

More frank debates like the night in Meldrum are a must for Scottish agriculture, and the hosts must be praised for bringing members and non-members into the discussion to account for all points of view. It is easy to shut the door, but no one learns in an echo chamber.