Alison Taylor: Highland Show boosts Edinburgh’s global presence

The Royal Highland Show has ties across the world that attract international attention. Picture: Lisa Ferguson
The Royal Highland Show has ties across the world that attract international attention. Picture: Lisa Ferguson
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RHASS also makes a strong economic contribution, writes Alison Taylor

Edinburgh may be the seventh largest city in the UK, but its strength as a major player internationally, especially within the finance, cultural and tourism industries, mean city council leader Andrew Kerr’s recent description of Edinburgh as “the UK’s second city” is not without merit.

But he told those listening to his presentation at a recent Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce event that although Edinburgh has earned its stripes as the UK’s best city, proven in poll after poll, it was at risk at losing out to northern English cities such as Newcastle-upon-Tyne and Manchester in terms of backing and funding from the UK government.

Each and every business in Edinburgh with global appeal has a part to play in maintaining the city’s position and edge in the eyes of the international market.

One such organisation is the Royal Highland and Agricultural Society of Scotland (RHASS). Headquartered at Ingliston, RHASS is a charity and a standard-bearer for farming. It also has ties across the world that attract international attention, and visitors, to the Scottish capital.

Perhaps the most well-known of RHASS activities, and one of the shining stars in Edinburgh’s events calendar, is the Royal Highland Show. In 2015, the show celebrated its 175th anniversary by breaking its own attendance record, with more than 188,000 visitors attending during the four-day event. Some 21 per cent of these visitors came from outwith Scotland and about 2,000 from Europe. Judges in the livestock competitions came from as far afield as Canada and some of the outdoor exhibitors, including the world’s largest agri-machinery manufacturers, made the long journey from countries including Turkey, the United States and Germany to exhibit.

The Royal Highland Show has also become innovative in how it engages with its international audiences, by livestreaming the event. In 2015 more than 15,000 people in 23 countries tuned in online to watch live coverage. Plans are in place to grow this service for the 2016 show.

The Royal Highland Show contributes around £47 million to the Scottish economy each year, with the majority of that figure generated in Edinburgh’s tourism sector.

Another part of the Society’s contribution to the Edinburgh economy is the Royal Highland Centre, and RHASS’ thriving events business. Each year it welcomes more than one million visitors through its doors and its close proximity to Edinburgh Airport makes it a prime location to welcome international guests.

The RHASS is a member of the Royal Agricultural Society of the Commonwealth, the voice of agriculture across 23 commonwealth countries. Through this membership, RHASS takes part in the interchange of ideas and views on the secure sustainable use of natural resources in the production of food, forest and fisheries.

The Society’s educational charity, the Royal Highland Education Trust (RHET), aims to create a food-literate generation of the future by working with primary age children on a variety of projects, such as its popular Food & Farming days. RHET has recently been invited to attend and present at conferences in Finland, Italy and Australia to share its experiences.

Edinburgh’s global appeal is multi-faceted and the RHASS will continue to play its part in the future success of our capital.

• Alison Taylor is fundraising and partnerships manager at the RHASS