The Royal Highland Agricultural Society of Scotland (RHASS) does much more than run a show. Ewan Pate talks to chief executive, Alan Laidlaw, about its charitable remit.
Alan Laidlaw’s desk in Ingliston House is strewn with pamphlets and documents produced by RHASS, with some dating back to its origins in 1784.
He says: “We have a tremendous archive here and I enjoy dipping into it and finding out just how influential we have been in agricultural and rural life over the period. Many of the articles from 100 years ago are startlingly relevant to the present time.
“At this time of year we are concentrating on the show and are public facing. For these four days in June, Ingliston becomes equivalent to the seventh busiest city in Scotland and surveys have shown that 40 per cent of our visitors are urban-based. It is a great chance to let people see how food is produced in a sustainable way and seeing livestock close up is always a highlight.”
The presentation of awards is an important part of RHASS’ remit and many of them go to livestock exhibitors. However, there are a host of other awards, many of them made to young people. The society supports delegates to the Oxford Farming Conference and the Royal Agricultural Society of the Commonwealth and offers secretarial services to the Roy Watherston Travel Trust has sent young people around the globe in search of knowledge.
Mr Laidlaw is also secretary to the Scottish Panel of the Council of Awards for the Royal Agricultural Societies which awards fellowships and associateships to those making a mark in the agricultural industry.
Of all its charitable activities, RHASS’ support for the Royal Highland Educational Trust stands out. It is expected 7,000 children will attend the show under its programmes rounding off a busy month which has already seen 400 pupils visit Scotsheep and another 1,200 at an event at the Border Union Showground.
“This is in addition to farm visits all year round,” says Mr Laidlaw. “It does not come cheap, it is very disappointing that we are missing out on Scottish Government attainment funding.
“RHASS has also provided financial support to RSABI to allow it to operate its helpline.”
The aim is to keep the society relevant to the times in the same way the founding members sought do back in 1780 and in every decade since then.