Alan Laidlaw: It’s good to talk – that’s why the Royal Highland Show is vital

Alan Laidlaw, Chief Executive of RHASS
Alan Laidlaw, Chief Executive of RHASS
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We often talk about the successes of the Royal Highland Show, but a value often overlooked is the social benefit. As I walk around the show, it is always very apparent that this is very much a social event.

It’s a fixture in the calendar when family and friends (old and new) meet to catch up, put the world to rights, eat, drink and share in a common bond, Rural Scotland.

It is wonderful to see – however, we must not forget the other 51 weeks of the year. There is no doubt ­farming and rural living can be ­isolating, stressful, and have an impact on mental wellbeing, yet it’s all too easy to put off the important instead of the urgent – especially as harvest approaches and winter livestock ­routines are upon us.

The demands of farm work can override the need to take care of ­yourself, yet this can have a devastating impact not only on individuals, but also families, communities and the business you are working so hard to build.

It is important to sometimes step back and consider what you are doing, how you are doing it and why.

Industry events offer an ideal opportunity to do this – to get out, meet like-minded people and ­discuss your business.

It soon becomes clear that many of your own concerns are often shared by fellow farmers. If not, they can offer help and support.

Attitudes have changed, and it is no longer necessary to have a stiff upper lip. RHASS as an organisation do not want this for its members or the wider rural community, which is why we continue to support the Royal Scottish Agricultural Benevolent Institution’s helpline, so that if you find your issues difficult to discuss, you can consider contacting them to talk to someone in confidence. They do an amazing job at supporting the farming and rural community.

As an industry we have a lot to be proud of and celebrate and we all need to embrace opportunities that remind us of that, making it a priority to attend events and talk to people.

You owe it to yourself and your business and it may give you a renewed enthusiasm for what’s ahead. It might also give you new ideas, new contacts, and confidence to make changes going forward. As the Royal Highland Show clearly demonstrated this year, we have a talented and ­motivated new generation of ­individuals keen to succeed in the industry.

Let’s help to try and not let any ­mental health issues get in the way of the future. It is great to see the Scottish Association of Young Farmers Clubs initiating this conversation with their Are Ewe Okay? campaign, specifically targeted at the 14-30 age group.

This shows the genuine progress we have made as an industry around this issue – it is being addressed, and with that comes ­positive change. So, make a date for 2019 to come along to the Royal Highland Show from 20 to 23 June to remind yourself what an amazing industry you are part of and why its future looks bright, or go along to one of your local shows near you.

If you are not a farmer, I would encourage you to reflect on what this industry brings to you and show your appreciation, whether online or in person. Small gestures can make a real difference!

For further information please ­visit www.royalhighlandshow.org @ScotlandRHShow and #HighlandShow.

Alan Laidlaw, chief executive of RHASS