Cultivating Social Well-being in Rural Scotland: The Role of the Royal Highland & Agricultural Society of Scotland
In the picturesque landscapes of rural Scotland, where rolling hills meet serene lochs, there's a thriving community deeply connected to the land. But beyond the breathtaking scenery lies a crucial yet often overlooked aspect of rural life: social well-being.
The Essence of Social Well-being in Rural Scotland
Social well-being is the foundation of our strong and resilient communities in rural Scotland. It encompasses several key aspects one of which is often overlooked, community cohesion, this is when a rural community comes together to celebrate, learn, do business, or spend time with like-minded people who are all of similar backgrounds. These gatherings help create strong social connections, foster trust, cooperation, and mutual support but also allow communities to celebrate successes and learn from each other.
At RHASS we understand the importance of these gatherings, and over our 240-year history, we have been at the forefront and making them a significant part of our work. The Royal Highland Show is an opportunity for our rural communities to come together, learn new techniques, laugh, share experiences, and demonstrate what makes rural communities great. 2023 saw the launch of the Royal Highland & Agricultural Society of Scotland’s Local Show Engagement Fund which awarded over £42,000 to 30 local Scottish agricultural shows. The grants were used for a variety of reasons some being to support upgrades, engagement, and ticketing support.
Mental health and well-being issues are also challenges that the rural population of Scotland faces. The isolation that often accompanies rural living and the lack of accessible health care can affect not just individuals but also the whole community's mental health and general well-being. Addressing these mental health challenges and providing accessible support is crucial. RHASS has supported a number of great initiatives over the years to try and address these imbalances whether that’s the continued support of RSABI and their 24-hour helpline or the creation and delivery of Farmstrong Scotland, which advocates the incorporating simple habits and ways of thinking, giving farmers the tools to help them through difficult and stressful times.
Education and skill development are essential for rural communities. Access to quality education and opportunities for skill development are required for the growth and prosperity of rural youth. At RHASS, there is a long history of supporting education, RHASS funded the first-ever soil scientist in Scotland, and we work closely with educational institutions to support animal health, genetics, and veterinary medicine as well as our unwavering support of the Royal Highland Educational Trust. Moving into our 240th year RHASS has identified the lack of skills development as an area of need and is currently working in the background with a number of local and national government departments, and third-sector funders to try and unlock funding to support skills development apprenticeships.
Engaging our Community
RHASS actively engages with rural communities to ensure that our efforts align with the needs and aspirations of the people who live there We are committed to listening and working with and for the people in these societies, collaborating with local and national organisations, and working to empower individuals to drive positive change.
The Path Forward: A Brighter Rural Scotland
As we look to the future, it is evident that social well-being in rural Scotland is a cornerstone of progress. By fostering community cohesion, nurturing mental health, promoting inclusivity, investing in education, and supporting economic resilience, the Royal Highland & Agricultural Society of Scotland is and will continue to play a pivotal role in ensuring a brighter and more vibrant rural Scotland.
RHASS is not just an agricultural charity, we try to be a beacon of hope and progress in the heart of our rural communities. Through our dedicated efforts, we are sowing the seeds of social well-being and ensuring that rural Scotland continues to flourish for generations to come.