The depth of the financial crisis engulfing organisers of the Royal Highland Show has been laid bare in a desperate plea for 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 a donation of £125 per head.
The RHASS is sitting on £10 million 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, society 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 currently being considered for 2021, with the event usually costing between £3m and £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, when 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.
Mr Laidlaw urged everyone who cared about the show to “dig deep”.