Scottish Branch chairman Donald Rodger (left) and AA Marketing Officer Steve Hodsman at the Royal Highland Show.
In May we received an invitation to be part of the Forestry Commission Scotland exhibition stand at the 2018 Royal Highland Show. It had been more than 10 years since the Association had a presence at the event. A sprawling showground full of cattle, light horse and heavy horse, sheep, goats, poultry and the largest display of agricultural machinery in the UK might not sound like the right place for an AA pop-up stand, but as one of Scotland’s most iconic events and with a four-day footfall of 200,000 we felt it was too good an opportunity to miss.
The stand was situated in the Forestry Learning Zone, just across from the pole-climbing arena, which featured some impressive competitors in the arb category. I had the pleasure of spending the opening day with our Scotland Branch Chairman, Donald Rodger, who has been a member for 36 years. It was a quiet start, but by lunchtime we had a steady stream of visitors.
The majority of the people we spoke to on Thursday had never heard of the AA, which made each conversation all the more worthwhile as they went away with a positive interaction, usually pleased to take a guide to choosing an arborist, tree pruning or trees and the law – or, in the case of most of the youngsters who approached us, a wristband and a pen!
On Friday I was joined by our very well-travelled Professional member Simon Stuart. It was great to speak to arborists and find out a bit more about the issues they have in getting recognition for arboriculture in Scotland. While Simon fielded as many questions about the price of timber as he did about tree work, we spoke to lots of members of the public and converted a few farmers, who were initially dubious, to the benefits of trees.
I’d like to thank the members of the Scotland Branch for their help in volunteering at the Royal Highland Show: the fact that so many passionate members put their hand up to man the stand speaks a great deal for the branch. It’s their enthusiasm which is reinvigorating the Association’s presence in Scotland and it’s important that we continue to support their efforts wherever possible. I know that everyone at The Malthouse really appreciates the time they and all our branch supporters dedicate to raising the profile of the Association. Thanks also to James MacDougall of Forestry Commission Scotland for his generosity in offering the free exhibition space.
More and more branches, members and Approved Contractors are getting involved in raising the presence of the Association at events like these, which, while they are unlikely to increase the number of AA members, are crucial to improving our public profile.