RHASS (Royal Highland and Agricultural Society of Scotland) held its AGM today, communicating to its members key themes of investment into the future and demonstrating the positive impact it makes on agricultural and rural communities in Scotland.

The 2023 Royal Highland Show became one of its most successful shows to date, with 217,000 attending and generating £900,000 in sponsorship to RHASS, showcasing how valuable the Show is to businesses and the Scottish economy. A core part of the show was Golden Shears which saw the world’s top shearers compete on a global stage, captivating audiences worldwide. Over 100 countries tuned in to watch Golden Shears, which had its dedicated channel on RHSTV.

2023 marked the success of the Flock to the Show campaign, the Society’s biggest external engagement campaign to date, with beautifully decorated sheep sculptures travelling the length and breadth of Scotland visiting over 300 locations. This sparked great discourse across the country, bringing RHASS to the forefront of discussions focused on rural Scotland. At the show, 7,500 families engaged with Flock to the Show and the campaign helped to raise over £85k for the Bicentennial Fund to support the charitable activities of RHASS.

The first RHASS Harvest Thanksgiving Service took place in October 2023, bringing the countryside to the heart of Edinburgh. Working alongside St Giles Cathedral, a joint service was hosted honouring and championing the hard work of Scottish farmers and primary food producers at a time of year when they are under huge pressure, whilst highlighting the need to reduce food waste. Produce gifted for the service was donated to local charities and food banks.

Last year also saw RHASS launch the Local Show Engagement Fund, providing dedicated and ongoing support for regional agricultural shows. A total of £42,000 in funding was delivered to 21 shows across Scotland on a wide variety of projects, including the installation of permanent Wi-Fi within the Turriff Show showground, the fitting of pedestrian barriers around the main ring of the Stirling Agricultural Show and improvement to the Educational Marquee at the Kirriemuir Show.

110 events were held at the Royal Highland Centre drawing audience numbers of over 300,000, as the RHASS group continue to diversify and capitalise on opportunities to host world-class events and work with diverse organisations, from music festival promoters to corporate exhibitors.

Financially, the charity’s total income was £11,532,053, a 5% rise on the previous year. Expenditure was £15,383,679. Operationally, 2023 brought an economically challenging year, with rising interest rates and spiralling inflation. Recognising these difficulties, RHASS, made the strategic choice to plan a deficit and take further steps to protect and ease the burden of ag-inflation, and the rising living costs for members, Show exhibitors and trade partners.

The RHASS board is confident in the future financial sustainability of the charity and that the planned deficit and investment in its core charitable functions made in this year will continue to deliver a positive impact. A plan is in place to bring the charity back into surplus, with a focus on cost management, innovative fundraising efforts, and strategic investments in infrastructure as well as further developing assets, to ensure its long-term sustainability.

Throughout 2023, the charity maintained a pivotal role in supporting Scottish agriculture – providing over £500,000 of funding for projects including the Royal Highland Education Trust (RHET), Moredun, Farmstrong, and RSABI. Over £200,000 in prize money was awarded to Royal Highland Show competitors.

Jim Warnock, Chairman of the RHASS, said: “2023 saw a continued year of positive investment into the future of the charity, its work and our infrastructure, and our accounts reflect this. We also faced daunting challenges of rising interest rates and spiralling inflation but in recognising these difficulties, we made the strategic choice to protect our members, show exhibitors and trade partners to demonstrate our commitment to maintaining affordable prices.

“We committed investment into important initiatives which support the sector such as Golden Shears and launch of the Royal Highland Hoolie, which we see as a fantastic growth area for the charity.”

Alan Laidlaw, Chief Executive of the RHASS said:

“I’m proud of the impact our team has delivered supporting and promoting agricultural excellence in Scotland. The crucial work we deliver across the country is testament to the hard work of our team and the fantastic volunteers who support us each year. These results show the hard work of the Society in a challenging year, our long-term plan to grow our impact and invest in our core activities remains relevant and we are confident that our strategy will increase our reach and impact for many years to come.

“RHASS is also looking forward to continuing fundraising efforts in its 240th year in 2024, with a series of initiatives including the Mighty Munro Muster and 240 Years of Stories. With a nationwide sheep hunt, Hide & Sheep, completed in March.”

“The 2024 Royal Highland Show is on track to be a fantastic event, with ticket sales up 9% on last year. Livestock entries are strong and many classes, including some new classes, have sold out in record time.

“We are pleased that our members have embraced the digital ticketing system, with 13,500 members having reserved their tickets, significantly up on last year. We look forward to welcoming visitors to this year’s show.”

Supported by the Royal Bank of Scotland, the week of the Royal Highland Show sees an influx of visitors, exhibitors and competitors to the Royal Highland Centre making it the sixth largest population in Scotland, bigger than Paisley and Dunfermline. Up to fifty-five thousand people are expected to visit daily.

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