RHASS annual results shows ‘devastating’ impact of Covid-19

The Royal Highland and Agricultural Society of Scotland (RHASS) has reported its annual results for the year ending November 30, 2020.

Amid one of the most turbulent times in RHASS history, the society’s financial returns detail significant losses of income compared to 2019, due to the impact of Covid-19 on the charity’s operations.

A ‘no Show’ year and the mass cancellation of events scheduled to take place at the Royal Highland Centre were the main contributors to the society’s 44% drop in income compared with the previous year. 

However, as a result of robust financial management and proactive steps taken by RHASS directors to secure the society’s future, the results detail optimism for the future. This is attributed to a committed membership, government grants, insurance compensation and new events business generated during this time.

Deep cuts to expenditure – including pay cuts for senior management, redundancies and the postponement of planned upgrading – contributed to drop in expenditure of 46% in the RHASS annual results, compared to the previous year.

Drop in income

While the global pandemic devastated the Royal Highland Centre’s events business, there were clear wins with NHS vaccination centre and Royal Mail lettings taking place over the period, a government resilience grant, furlough payments and insurance compensation thereby holding the overall drop in income to £4 million (2020: £5 million, 2019: £9 million).

The success of RHASS’ Save Your Show appeal – which generated just over £250,000 in the year, with members and the wider agricultural community digging deep to help secure the future of the society, and the show for future generations – also helped to mitigate the loss.

The society continued to support key organisations during this time, including RSABI (Royal Scottish Agricultural Benevolent Institution) and RHET (Royal Highland Education Trust), with other grants, including the Royal Agricultural Society of the Commonwealth conference travel bursary, which will be carried forward to when events are able to resume.

‘The detrimental impact of Covid-19’

Alan Laidlaw, RHASS chief executive, commented:

“The detrimental impact of Covid-19 on the Royal Highland and Agricultural Society of Scotland lays bare the fight we had on our hands to save not only the show, but the society at large.

The pandemic could not have come at a more crucial time for the organisation, poised as it was to reap the benefits of significant investment in facilities, including our new multi-use events venue which was completed on the eve of the first lockdown, and on the back of our record-breaking 2019 show.

“The reality of Covid-19 came into sharp focus early on and we were transparent with our membership and the industry on the impact this could have on the society’s future.

Alan Laidlaw

“Our membership showed their support of the society through retaining and renewing their membership, taking out life membership for family members and of course, donating to the Save Your Show campaign.

“I am so proud and humbled to be able to say that, thanks to their efforts, the actions of our trustees and the diversification of activity, the show has been saved,” Alan concluded.