Each year the Royal Highland and Agricultural Society of Scotland (RHASS) selects a region within Scotland to lead its presidential team.
And each year the presidential team is tasked with overseeing an initiative at the society’s flagship event – the four-day Royal Highland Show.
The Aberdeen region is at the helm for the 2017 Royal Highland Show with Lord Aberdeen of Haddo Estate in the hotseat.
Lord Aberdeen will serve as RHASS president for the year ahead with a team of four vice-presidents.
These are: Jim Brown, of Holmfield, Fettercairn; Neil Godsman, of Auchlee Farms, Longside, Peterhead; Sir Moir Lockhead, of Glassel Farms, Torphins, and Alastair Macphie, Glenbervie Estate and Farm.
Together with the society’s seven directors from the region, the presidential team is launching an initiative to help promote the food, drink and tourism industries from the north-east to visitors attending the 2017 Royal Highland Show.
“Our plan is to promote the food industry of Aberdeenshire and the north-east of Scotland, including distillers and craft brewers,” said Lord Aberdeen.
“We are also very conscious of the fact that the oil and gas industry is going through its difficulties at the moment which has a knock-on effect on the economy so we need to make sure that we can promote in particular the tourism side of Aberdeenshire and the north-east. This has been woefully ignored in the past.”
He said the Highland Show, which attracted just under 189,000 visitors this year, provided a great platform to promote the region. “One shouldn’t forget that the Royal Highland Show is the largest outdoor event in Scotland and 65% of the population (in Scotland) live within one hour’s drive of Ingliston.”
Lord Aberdeen said the drive to promote the region would be split into three different elements.
Firstly, the promotion of food and drink will be done through the creation of a collective stand in the food and drink hall to allow producers from the region to showcase their products.
Lord Aberdeen said: “The idea is to have a presence in the food hall and have a collective stand for the north-east. People might still take their individual stands but there are a lot of small food and beverage manufacturers who simply cannot afford to take four days off and pay for accommodation down there, plus the cost of the stand.”
He said the companies exhibiting at the stand would not necessarily need to send a representative to the show, and the stand would be manned by people who were able to give customers information about each product on show.
The second stream of promotion at the show will be the erection of an outdoor stand, split into two areas with one on either side of an outdoor path through the show.
Lord Aberdeen said this stand, which will also be manned by a person with knowledge of all the different companies exhibited, would be used to promote the region’s tourism sector. He said: “We want to be in a partnership with all the hotels, golf-courses and tourism organisations, like the National Trust for Scotland, and anybody who will do things to promote people coming to the area.”
Vice-president Neil Godsman said it was hoped organisations such as Visit Aberdeenshire and north-east economic development agency ONE would provide funds towards the cost of exhibiting at the show. Companies exhibiting at both the food and drink and tourism stands will be expected to make a small financial contribution.
Lastly, vice-president Jim Brown said the team hoped to extend their Aberdeenshire and north-east promotion by creating a brand which could be displayed by any exhibitor, whether they be a cattle or sheep breeder or a machinery dealer, from the region in attendance at the show.
The president’s initiative will also link up with the World Aberdeen-Angus Forum, which is being hosted in Scotland next year. Two of the vice-presidents – Sir Moir Lockhead and Alastair Macphie – are Aberdeen-Angus breeders and its hoped the exhibits for both initiatives at the show will complement each other.
To deliver their plans, the new RHASS presidential team hopes to raise between £15,000 and £20,000 to employ a project manager to organise the show exhibits. To help raise these funds, a charity golf day followed by a dinner is planned for October 13 at Meldrum House Hotel. Twenty teams of four are sought to compete on the day and all funds raised will go towards the initiative. Anyone interested in entering a team is asked to contact any of the vice-presidents or Lord Aberdeen by calling Haddo House Estate direct on 01651 851 664.
The RHASS directors from the north-east this year are: Christo Shepherd, of Pitmillan, Newburgh; William Ferguson, of Rothiebrisbane, Fyvie; Robert Maitland, of West Balhalgardy, Inverurie; Eric Mutch, Burnside of Whitefield, Forglen, Turriff; Andrew Rennie, of Gask, Turriff; John Sleigh, St John’s Wells, Fyvie, and John McWilliam, of Haughhead, Laurencekirk.