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RHASS results show signs of optimism despite difficult economic climate

28/04/2023
Alan Laidlaw

THE ROYAL Highland and Agricultural Society of Scotland (RHASS) has reported a sound set of results for the year ended 30th November 2022. 

Members attending the RHASS Annual General meeting held today (27thApril) both in person and online, will be presented with a confident set of accounts for the year ended November 2022, despite the charity having to navigate the impact of a challenging economic climate. 

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Overall income recovered to £11m (2021: £8.2m) following the pandemic, with membership revenues increasing to £0.6m and sponsorship contributing £0.7m. 

However, despite the increased income, the overall annual deficit grew to £1.2m (2021: £0.8m) reflecting the significant impact of higher costs across the day-to-day operational activity and the escalation in costs associated with staging the Royal Highland Show. Adjusting the deficit for depreciation and loan interest shows a positive earnings position of £0.1m (2021: £0.5m). This illustrates the positive underlying operating model within RHASS. 

The movement in funds to £16.9m (2021: £19.4m), reflects the above operating deficit and the negative revaluation of a RHASS investment property by £1.4m. This revaluation coincided with the UK Government’s mini budget and associated short-term shocks in the market. This property is held for investment purposes and the value is anticipated to rise back to previous levels. 

Long term loan repayments resumed in mid-2021 resulting in a reduction of debt to £8.7m (2021: £9.3m) despite interest increases from £143k to £299k in the year. 

Highlights for the year included the return of the Royal Highland Show to celebrate its 200th event, which was delivered in a tight timeframe given the ever-changing Covid-19 landscape in early 2022. RHASS continued live-stream broadcasting via the RHS TV platform, taking the excitement of the Show to a global audience alongside the return of the live event. 

The wider economic impact of the Royal Highland Show was also unveiled in 2022 with the release of an independent report detailing the event’s contribution to Edinburgh’s economy, which was calculated at £39.5 million annually – more than Edinburgh’s Hogmanay. 

The Highland Centre Limited, RHASS’s wholly-owned trading company, which generates income to support RHASS’s charitable remit, returned a higher-than-budgeted profit due to an increased number of high-profile live events, coupled with non-event business including Royal Mail and the NHS vaccination use. 

Total grants awarded totalled £227,664 (2021: 259,362) with over £167,000 in prize money additionally awarded to Royal Highland Show competitors. 

RHASS Chief Executive Alan Laidlaw said:  

“The return to normal post-Covid has been taxing due to the challenging economic climate, including a significant escalation in costs to deliver the Royal Highland Show and operational increases on the day-to-day running of RHASS along with much-reduced availability of financial support, which was available through the pandemic. 

“We are however heartened by the significant increase in revenue generated by the Royal Highland Centre, which is set to continue into next year. 

“We were pleased to host a full Royal Highland Show in 2022 despite the ever-changing Covid-19 landscape, with sold-out days on Friday and Saturday reflecting the continued appeal of the event. 

“Additionally, the Society’s charitable activities continued with total grants awarded totalling £227,664. 

“Looking to 2023 and beyond, we continue to seek to increase income and contain costs to ensure the financial stability of RHASS. This includes exploring new income streams within the charity and the group.” 

“2023 will again see the return of a full Royal Highland Show with the exciting addition of the Golden Shears world sheep shearing and woolhandling championships and are welcoming significant demand for our event facilities through this year and beyond.” 

RHASS Chairman, Jim Warnock added:   

“The Directors knew that this was going to be a difficult year as we returned to normal after Covid-19. However, we are confident that the Society’s financial outlook is positive and in line with expectations, with plans to bring the Society back to a positive financial footing. 

“We would like pay tribute to our members who have remained steadfast in their support throughout the difficult times – it is very much appreciated.” 

However, Mr Warnock remained realistic as to what to expect for the next 12 months.   

He said: “While we are confident that the appeal of the Show will remain, and the Royal Highland Centre is on track to continue its upward trajectory, the impact of reduced household income and the increased cost of doing business remains very real. However, under our Directors’ careful stewardship, I am confident that RHASS will continue to be a financially secure organisation supporting rural Scotland.” 

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