Ray Jones: Scotland isn't at the World Cup, but it is on the world stage

IF YOU were to ask Scottish business analysts to name organisations contributing over £250 million to the Scottish economy each year, the Royal Highland and Agricultural Society of Scotland (RHASS) may not be on the list.

Yet this historic society, now in its 226th year, continues to grow and make a significant contribution in Scotland.

Despite the economic downturn, RHASS posted an increase in business last year, turning over 6 million, with 1 million surplus. From a rural and agricultural perspective, it is also against the backdrop of the demise of other UK shows. Five, including the Royal Show, which used to be the UK's largest agricultural event, folded in England last year.

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So what makes RHASS and the Royal Highland Show continue to go from strength to strength? I believe that it is our ability to deliver world-class events, together with our foresight to plan ahead to secure the society and its offering for the future.

We have just submitted a planning application to the City of Edinburgh Council for a 20-year development programme to upgrade the infrastructure at the centre, improve access routes to and from the venue, and create supporting facilities, including two new hotels and a food excellence centre for visitors.

The society's masterplan has been two years in the making, with much local consultation including insight and feedback from local MSPs. Those who have followed our redevelopment closely will know that the goal posts changed in 2008, when the airport decided to hold off on its expansion plan, which would have had a direct impact on the location of the centre. Today, we shall be unveiling the latest plans at a reception in the Scottish Parliament.

The overarching focus for the society is to ensure that the Royal Highland Centre remains Scotland's premier showground for the next 20 years. The masterplan sets out a programme of work to achieve that.

The role of our most famous event, the Royal Highland Show, should not be underestimated in contributing to that vision. This year marks our 50th anniversary at Ingliston and during that time, attendance figures have increased from 98,000 to over 176,500 people at the four-day event.

We attract interest from all over the world with exhibitors, visitors and guests attending from over 21 countries. Many come to see the 5,000 pedigree cattle, sheep and horses on display, as well as the state-of-the-art agricultural machinery, while others come to taste Scotland's food and drink, buy high-quality crafts and fashion, and watch performers. With 70 per cent of our visitors coming from urban areas, the show represents a great day out for the family with food demonstrations, educational activities for children and traditional countryside pursuits on offer.

As well as the Royal Highland Show, the centre hosted 206 events last year, amassing over 700 event days. It also benefits from an excellent position served by three motorways, an international airport, and a park-and-ride and bus service second to none. The centre is firmly established as a prime venue in Scotland; unique in its capacity and scale.

As part of our masterplan engagement, the society was recently complimented as "being one of the oldest businesses in Edinburgh yet still one of its most dynamic". I am very proud of that commendation and through our 14,500 members the society will continue to seek new ways to keep the show Scotland's foremost event for many years to come.

• Ray Jones is chief executive of the Royal Highland & Agricultural Society of Scotland