Coronavirus forces cancellation of Royal Highland Show

The Royal Highland Show is the latest farming event to be cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic that has sent the country into lockdown.

Organisers expressed their “deep regret” at having to cancel Scotland’s biggest agricultural show, which was due to take place on 18-21 June.

The decision has been taken in line with the Scottish and UK government’s guidance on gatherings and social distancing.

See also: Poll: Are you limiting farm visits over coronavirus?

Prime minister Boris Johnson said “drastic action” was needed, with the virus spreading rapidly in the UK and increasing the pressure on health services.

It comes as three major farming events in the South West – the Devon County Show, Royal Bath and West Show and the Royal Cornwall Show – were all postponed due to the threat of coronavirus.

Bill Gray, chairman of the Royal Highland and Agricultural Society of Scotland (RHASS), said confirming the news was a “huge personal disappointment”.

He added: “Plans for the 180th show are at an advanced stage, but given recent and ongoing developments, the directors and I have taken the only course of action open to us.  

“Thankfully, the sector is nothing but resilient and while this will no doubt test us, I am confident that some good will come from what is a bleak and worrying time for us all.”

Cancelled or postponed food and farming events

  • Mass rally for UK agriculture, organised by the NFU and planned for central London on 25 March. Now postponed until a later date.
  • The Sussex Food and Drink Awards, which sees more than 300 farmers and food producers gather in Brighton, will now take place on 1 July rather than 29 April.
  • British Meat Processors Association conference in London on 17 March to explore the science behind livestock-related climate change. Event cancelled.
  • The Royal Highland Show, due to take place on 18-21 June. Event cancelled.
  • The Royal Bath and West Show postponed until 31 July to 2 August.
  • Devon County Show postponed until 28-30 August.
  • The Royal Cornwall Show postponed until 10-12 September.
  • The National Beef Association’s Beef Expo, due to take place in Darlington on 28 May, has been postponed until “later in the summer”, said organisers.

‘Pull together’

Mr Gray urged the industry and wider partners to work together to “weather the storm”.

The show attracts 200,000 people each year and is the premier showcase for the food, farming and rural industry. 

Scott Walker, NFU Scotland chief executive, said: “Farmers work long hours and often by themselves. Events such as the Highland Show are important for socialising and for people’s mental health.

“As every sector of society puts plans in place to mitigate the impact of the disease, and social gatherings become much less frequent, I ask that everyone in the farming community looks out for one another.”

South West shows postponed

Organisers of Devon County Show, Royal Bath and West Show and the Royal Cornwall Show said in a statement the most responsible action was to reschedule and their “absolute priorities must lie with the protection of public health”.

The three South West shows, all of which were scheduled to take place in spring, will be postponed until:

  • 31 July to 2 August – The Royal Bath & West Show
  • 28-30 August – Devon County Show
  • 10-12 September – The Royal Cornwall Show
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