Despite best efforts to go ahead, directors of the Royal Highland and Agricultural Society of Scotland (RHASS) have been forced to shelve plans for what would have been the 180th Royal Highland Show.

At the March board meeting, RHASS directors were presented with detailed scenarios based on Covid-19 restrictions likely to still be in place by June.

These included modelling based on reduced capacities, factoring in the likely social distancing measures, vaccination status and the potential impact of new Covid-19 variants.

Directors were also briefed on discussions with senior Scottish Government officials, in which concerns were raised around the likelihood of any large scale events taking place in 2021.

Weighing up the information presented, RHASS directors felt there was no option but to shelve plans for a traditional 2021 Royal Highland Show and instead consider alternative options.

Royal Highland Show live

In preparation, the planning team had scoped out an outline of a ‘Royal Highland Show live’ concept, which is effectively a hybrid show with judging, show jumping and competitions taking place at the showground behind closed doors.

Directors heard that this format would give exhibitors the opportunity to showcase their livestock from showgrounds in Ingliston to a global audience through live-streaming.

RHASS members will be given 'VIP access' to the live-streaming for free as part of their member benefits.

Along with livestock and equestrian, it is proposed that key elements of the show would feature including Young Handlers, Technical Innovation, Cookery and Handcrafts, together with farriery, forestry and sheep shearing.

This was widely welcomed by directors and the planning team were tasked to build on this concept further, with a view to presenting comprehensive proposals to the RHASS board following wider consultation with exhibitors, sponsors and industry stakeholders.

'No choice but to seek an alternative'

Commenting on the decision, RHASS chairman Bill Gray said: “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.

"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.

“While deeply disappointing, what is possible is genuinely innovative and exciting and we are confident that with the power of the latest streaming technology and the finest elements of the show, we can create something truly special that is a true reflection of Scotland’s rural industries.”

RHASS chief executive Alan Laidlaw said: “At the time of the cancellation of the 2020 Show, RHASS Directors made a firm commitment to do whatever was possible to enable the 2021 Royal Highland Show to go ahead.

We have left no stone unturned in living up to this commitment and while it is not possible to deliver what we had planned, we are driving forward with the development of a fitting showcase of Scotland’s food, farming and rural sectors.

'Save your Show'

“We are grateful to everyone who has and continues to support the 'Save your Show' campaign.

"The funds raised so far will help us to stage the RHS showcase event and continue to meet contingencies following the pandemic.

With the cancellation of the 2021 show, it is more important than ever that the 'Save your Show' fundraising campaign continues, to allow us to provide a sustainable future for the Society and the Royal Highland Show, for the generations to come.

“The Royal Highland Show is an agricultural show and livestock exhibitors, competitions and equestrian are the backbone of this event so this will be our focus and we have some great ideas as to how we can make this work.

"We will collaborate with our industry partners, sponsors and sector bodies over the coming weeks and we hope everyone will get behind us to make this the best showcase possible.”