Royal Highland report shows society coping well under fire

The year 2021 might have represented a “rollercoaster ride”, but the Royal Highland and Agricultural Society of Scotland (RHASS) - claim that they emerged from the year an ‘evolved and more sustainable’ organisation.

RHASS chief executive, Alan Laidlaw
RHASS chief executive, Alan Laidlaw

As the organisers of the Royal Highland Show look forward to the return of a bumper full-blown event in June to celebrate this year’s 200th anniversary of the first show, the publication of the organisation’s annual review for 2021 reflected on the way it had tackled a second pandemic year in which the show and many other income generating events were once again cancelled due to Covid restrictions.

“We have not taken an easy road, but the outcomes speak for themselves,” said RHASS chief executive, Alan Laidlaw, commenting on the report, released yesterday.

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The 2021 on-line showcase event replaced the normal show with the help of £750,000 support from the Scottish Government.

“The show plays a hugely important role in the lives of many farming families – and we were determined to provide at least some sort of pivot for the many in the farming community who view the event as their only holiday,” said Laidlaw.

He said that showcase event which had seen the stock judging and horse events broadcast via the internet to be watched by 350,000 people in 97 countries had been judged a huge success in any terms.

Laidlaw said that recent investment in the showground’s infrastructure, including upgrading IT systems had not only played a key role in delivering the showcase but also in attracting new income streams and developing a more streamlined membership service.

This included the implementation of the on-line only ticketing system– a strategy which he said had been adopted to improve the safety of the event - but which would also reduce exposure to bad weather negatively affecting sales.

The accounts confirmed that the year to November 2021 had been “mixed” financially, due to the loss of income from the show. However, the annual report said this had been offset by success in attracting and retaining non-event business such as Royal Mail, NHS vaccinations and COP26 as well as the Scottish elections count in May 2021.

Laidlaw said that while the figures fell short of what would have been expected in a normal show year, the team at Ingliston were extremely proud of what they had achieved under difficult and uncertain circumstances.

Though overall income across the board recovered to £8.2m from £5.0min 2020, the overall deficit for 2021 stood at £0.8m, up from £0.3m in 2020 - a reflection of the costs of Showcase.

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Adjusting the surplus/ deficit for depreciation and loan interest resulted in positive earning before taxes, depreciation and amortization of £0.5m (2020: £1.0m).

Looking forward to this upcoming bicentenary show, the society’s chair, Bill Gray said: “We are supremely proud of what we have achieved thanks to the resilience of the board of directors, the staff and, of course, our membership who have been at the forefront of every decision we have made throughout.”



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