Join The Business over a coffee as we put the questions to Alan Laidlaw of the RHASS and find out what makes him tick

What was your ambition while at school?

“I wanted to be, and still do, a farmer. My link to the farming community is very strong and the satisfaction of creating something through hard work and toil is still significant.” 

Who was the biggest influence in your career? 

“Only now he is gone do I realise it’s my dad. He was brilliant at giving me support and opportunities, without me realising. He questioned, he shaped, but let me make all my own mistakes and successes. He was a dentist and was able to read and manage people well. After he died, I heard him described as ‘interested and interesting’, which I think is something we should all strive to be.”

“I have also had many people who have given me opportunities to shine and helped me grow. Angus McDowell an East Lothian farmer who let me develop while living on his farm, Chris Bourchier, my first boss at The Crown Estate who gave me a lot of rope and I kept taking it, and an old neighbour, Jim Douglas, who had the patience of a saint when I was young. He took me to the Royal Highland Show where I was mesmerised by the livestock, machinery and the events buzz. He was surprised and thrilled when I ended up going ‘full circle’ and became the CEO of the charity behind it.”

Did you have a mentor? 

“I have never had a formal mentoring relationship, but through my involvement with organisations like the Windsor Leadership Trust and Oxford Farming Conference I have developed a strong network of people who will challenge my thinking and who are always available when I need a sounding board.” 

Have you made a changes in the light of the climate crisis? 

“Farming, food and rural life is key to all that we do at work and I’m very conscious of that. We built a highly energy efficient house a few years ago and are very aware of how we buy and consume both food and energy. 

“I’ve had the chance to be involved in a lot of renewable energy generation and management of water and resources, so believe we are making good sound decisions around all resources. We have an electric car, as well as a 4×4 for our rural area. I look to make good sound decisions rather than ‘virtue signalling’. 

“I am also really passionate about people understanding the real climate impact of farming, global farming is often lumped together and it is completely false to suggest that intensive livestock farming abroad is the same as hill grazing in Scotland. Many farmers already believe the world is against them, it doesn’t help when a false narrative is shared.”

How do you relax? 

“In the East Lothian countryside mostly, whether with the family, friends or the dog. I have recently taken up golf and although I am not sure any of my fellow golfers would call my current performances “relaxed”, it is a way to totally switch off and concentrate on the job in hand.”