The depth of the financial crisis engulfing the organisers of the Royal Highland Show has been laid bare in a desperate plea to farmers to donate money to save the annual event.
The appeal for £2 million to help support preparations for the 2021 show has gone directly to the 16,000 members of the Royal Highland and Agricultural Society of Scotland (RHASS) in this month’s society magazine, which equates to asking for £125 per head.
The RHASS is sitting on £10m of debt following the cancellation of this year’s show and other events which were scheduled to be held in its new £5m pavilion at Ingliston.
RHASS received Covid-19 funding from both the Scottish and UK Governments, but no cash reserves are left and while cost-cutting plans have been implemented and redundancies are likely for some of the 44 staff, the society’s chief executive, Alan Laidlaw, insists these savings will not be enough to rescue the show.
Launching the appeal to “save your show”, he said: “We will do everything we can but it’s an uphill struggle.
“The directors are committed to delivering the show in 2021 but (pandemic) restrictions will be in place, possibly in numbers or the format structure or safety measures.
“All of those would have an impact on costs and our ability to deliver.
“If we get support over the next few months it would be an amazing boost.”
Six or seven different scenarios are being considered for the 2021 event, which usually costs around £3-£4m to host, including hiring structures, 80 additional temporary staff and 1,200 contractors.
RHASS also has an eye on the 200th anniversary of the show in 2022 , where the Golden Shears world shearing championships are due to be held and is “intent on ensuring” it is in a strong financial position in order to mark the landmark event.