While Scotland's biggest agricultural show, the Royal Highland, remains online again this year, the gradual easing of restrictions means that smaller events may be able to run. The prospect of those this summer is a positive step for businesses, local communities, and for attendees to enjoy a little normality. However, for organisers, extra precautions will be needed to ensure that the show does go on – safely.

Let's take a look at the restrictions and key parameters for events this summer.

The Scottish Government has published guidancefor the events sector on safe re-opening during the coronavirus pandemic. Rules and guidance will change as things develop, so you must check the current position before holding an event.


There are varying capacity limits across the different levels in Scotland; at the time of writing these are:



Outdoor Freestanding

Outdoor Seated














Drive-In Events Only


No Live Events

In venues that can accommodate larger audiences, an application can be made to the local authority for an exception to the capacity limits; however, physical distancing remains a requirement.

When planning an event, consider how capacity limits will be enforced – for example, by ticketing or otherwise restricting access.

Physical distancing

Although in levels 1 and 2 close contact between friends and family members is now permitted in limited circumstances, physical distancing remains a requirement at public events.

Accordingly, event hosts need to facilitate distancing during the event. This could include planning the layout of the event space and providing clear signage; staggering arrival and departure times to relieve the pressure on entry points, and designating separate exits and entries; and, clearly marking any queuing systems to allow space between customers.

Some events providers have been holding limited scale pilot events and, while not feasible for all circumstances, this could provide a valuable opportunity to test procedures and layouts and make any necessary tweaks before the full event goes ahead. This could be a smaller event, a broadcast-only event or one behind closed doors.


Consider having enhanced hygiene measures in place, including additional handwashing facilities and hand sanitiser. Touch points such as door handles and bannisters present a risk and additional measures may be needed to reduce the use of these as far as possible, along with regular and enhanced cleaning regimes.

Outbreak management

Before hosting an event, organisers should know what is required in terms of outbreak management. The local NHS board health protection team should be notified if any of the following occur:

  • two or more linked cases of COVID-19 within 14 days;
  • an increase in staff absence rates due to suspected or confirmed cases; or
  • if an organisation otherwise suspects a COVID-19 outbreak.

Events involving hospitality such as bars or cafes should also collect the contact details of non-takeaway customers, visitors, and workers to support Test and Protect.

Different areas of the country may have different restrictions – which, in turn, may indicate a higher or lower rate of infection among the local population. With that in mind, organisers should consider whether an event is appropriate in the local area and, how attendees will get to and from the event. Guidance on levels can be found on the Scottish Government website.

Risk assessments

Event organisers may already have risk assessments for events that took place before the pandemic. However, the pandemic not only introduces risks from the virus, it also introduces new ways of working, which may themselves create new risk. Accordingly, any existing risk assessments need to be reviewed to reflect changes to the organisation of the event.

Employers should also carry out a specific risk assessment on the risks posed to their employees, which should cover all aspects of business activity including how employees commute to work. Guidance and an online tool for carrying out this assessment are available on the Scottish Government website. This may be particularly relevant in remote locations where employees would normally stay in shared accommodation or share transport. Attendees and employees alike should be reminded that sharing cars should be avoided where possible, and only one household per vehicle is permitted for drive-in events.

Staff training and instruction

Finally, training of all employees, even if some are returning staff, will be important in ensuring all new processes are safely implemented. Employees should be consulted on health and safety matters, both to ensure compliance with any measures put in place, but also to listen to their concerns and address any issues raised.


Alison Waddell