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Devastating impact of Royal Highland Show cancellation laid bare in RHASS annual accounts

RHASS chief executive Alan Laidlaw says the society still faces an uncertain future.
RHASS chief executive Alan Laidlaw says the society still faces an uncertain future.

Drastic measures to stem the  losses incurred by the cancellation of the flagship Royal Highland Show appear to have stabilised the finances of the Royal Highland and Agricultural Society of Scotland (RHASS).

The full impact of the pandemic on the fortunes of the RHASS  is laid bare in the society’s annual accounts which show a £4 million drop in income in the year to November 2020 to £5m (2019: £9.01m) and a net operating deficit of £247,000 (2019: £713,000).

The accounts also demonstrate the determination of the society to survive the mass cancellation of events they had banked on hosting by taking measures which included cutting expenditure by 46%, to £5.28m (2019: £9.75m) through pay cuts, redundancies and the postponement of planned upgrading.

Both the 2020 and 2021 Royal Highland Shows have been cancelled as a result of Covid-19 restrictions.

Losses were largely mitigated by a government resilience grant, furlough payments,  insurance compensation and the RHASS’ own Save Your Show appeal which generated just over £250,000. The new Royal Highland Centre –  completed  on the eve of the first lockdown –  also picked up business as an NHS vaccination centre and was used by Royal Mail lettings.

However, despite assets of £20.4m (2019: £20.8m),  RHASS chief executive Alan Laidlaw admitted the society is still facing an uncertain future.

“However  we will remain focused on the job in hand and we give our commitment to membership that, with their continued support, we will come out of this time a stronger, more resilient organisation able to support future generations of farmers and agri-businesses,” he said.

The livestock parades are one of the most popular features of the Royal Highland Show.

RHASS chairman, Bill Gray pointed out the society had weathered the challenging period “so far” and retained assets, invested in crucial IT updates and secured a £750,000 grant to host the 2021 Royal Highland Showcase.

Machinery stands contribute to the income of the Royal Highland Show.

He praised the “gigantic effort”  by the membership and said new connections had been made at the highest levels with Scottish  Government, Event Scotland and other events businesses.

“These connections will continue to reap benefits for the society and the wider rural and agri community, as we are now rightly recognised as a key player in Scotland’s events line-up,” he said.

The RHASS made awards and bursaries totalling £269,000 during the year (2019: £340,000) including to the rural charity RSABI and the Royal Highland Education Trust (RHET).

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