This year’s Royal Highland Show has been cancelled – but plans are in the pipeline for livestock judging to go ahead at Ingliston without spectators.
The show’s directors have made the inevitable but financially crippling decision to cancel Scotland’s flagship agricultural event for a second year after discussions with government advisers.
The Royal Highland and Agricultural Society of Scotland (RHASS) chairman, Bill Gray said his board was deeply disappointed and had left “no stone unturned” in the effort to hold a show which would satisfy even some of the 200,000 or so people who flock to Ingliston every June.
“We had hoped beyond hope, particularly with the direction of travel before Christmas, that the vaccination rollout would enable the show as we know it to go ahead,” he said.
“However the prospect of extended restrictions, combined with advice from senior level Scottish Government officials, left us with no other choice but to seek an alternative to the staging of the traditional Royal Highland Show.”
The 10,000 people who bought advance tickets for June’s event will have their money refunded.
Meanwhile the RHASS is now planning for a “Royal Highland Showcase” event to take place at the showground in June, but behind closed doors, with only exhibitors attending to parade their livestock for showing in the traditional judging rings.
The aim is to live stream the event globally, with RHASS members getting VIP access to the livestreaming for free as part of their member benefits.
RHASS chief executive, Alan Laidlaw cited the success of this year’s online Celtic Connections festival which was streamed across the globe to a larger audience than every before.
He said the directors wanted the livestock competition to be at the highest possible level.
“The world will be able to watch,” he said.
“It has proved successful for other showing organisations and we want to try that – a hybrid between a live event and an online presence – to give people the opportunity to show their livestock and genetics and still have a celebration of that, but just not in front of the public we’d normally have.”
The cancellation of the show for a second year has serious financial implications for the RHASS after it lost £4.5 million last year and a further £2 million from events income at the Royal Highland Centre.