Scotland’s highland games have been given a major boost with the announcement that His Royal Highness Prince Charles, The Duke of Rothesay has agreed to become the patron of the sports governing body, the Scottish Highland Games Association (SHGA).
The announcement comes as the SHGA marks its 70th anniversary and Scotland celebrates the year of history, heritage and archaeology. Founded in 1947 as the Scottish Games Association to standardise competition rules and ensure judging consistency, the SHGA works to promote and preserve highland games nationally and internationally.
The Duke of Rothesay will become the association’s first ever Royal Patron. It is hoped that his Patronage will help to further raise the profile of the iconic events, leading to greater public participation and engagement, helping safeguard the future of highland games.
With a history stretching back centuries, highland games remain important outdoor events throughout Scotland, generating an estimated £25million for the country’s economy each year. Games take place every weekend from mid-May until mid-September and on many weekdays during July and August.
Featuring piping, highland dancing, cycling, tug o’ war, and light and heavy athletics – including tossing the caber and hammer throws – highland games are a unique blend of Scottish music, dance, sport, culture and community. Many highland games also feature trade stands, helping support small local businesses and charities by providing a platform for them to showcase their products and services, further emphasising their role in communities.
The SHGA oversees 61 of the 80 highland games that take place in Scotland annually. Combined, these games attract over 150,000 visitors, including thousands from overseas who can claim Scottish ancestry. Alongside hundreds of pipers and dancers, around 500 athletes compete in light and heavy athletics events, and running and cycling races at SHGA member events throughout the games season.
An enthusiastic supporter of highland games, The Duke of Rothesay has been a regular visitor to the Braemar Highland Gathering since first attending in 1955. He is also the chieftain of the Mey Highland Games, a role he took on following the death of his grandmother, the Queen Mother, and in recent years has attended the Ballater Highland Games.
The Duke’s support of the SHGA will continue the Royal family’s long association with Scotland’s highland games. Queen Victoria first visited the Braemar Highland Gathering in 1848, her attendance in subsequent years helping to popularise the events throughout Scotland. Her Majesty The Queen maintains this tradition, taking a keen interest in proceedings.
As the governing body of Scottish highland games, the SHGA sets competition rules and administers a series of regional leagues and national and international highland games championships. It also runs a random drug testing programme for athletes in conjunction with UK Anti-Doping, Britain’s national anti-doping agency. The aim is to create an environment where athletes know they can compete in the true spirit of sport.
Charlie Murray, President of the Scottish Highland Games Association, said: “It is an honour and a privilege that His Royal Highness The Duke of Rothesay has agreed to become the first royal patron of the Scottish Highland Games Association. This is a milestone for the association as we mark our 70th anniversary.
“We have all witnessed The Duke’s delight at watching events at highland games and the close attention he pays to the competitions. The Duke is a staunch advocate of promoting and protecting the country’s traditions and heritage, and supporting its rural economies. His patronage will help the SHGA to enhance the profile of highland games, which remain an important part of Scotland’s fabric and story. Their status and characteristics help to attract thousands of visitors to Scotland each year.
“Each games has its own unique, vibrant atmosphere. Regardless of their size or location, all bring their local communities together and provide a positive contribution to them. Encouraging greater participation in highland games, whether as organisers, spectators or competitors, is important for the future of individual games, the communities in which they are held and indeed Scotland.”
The Scottish Highland Games Association (SHGA) is the sports governing body of traditional highland games in Scotland and represents more than 60 member events across the country. Established in 1947 as the Scottish Games Association, it aims to further the cause of highland games. The organisation administers the national and international highland games championships and runs a series of regional leagues throughout the highland games season that its members’ events are part of. Recognised by the UK and Scottish governments, the SHGA works at a strategic level on behalf of its members and also provides drug testing facilities, legal support and basic insurance cover to them. Reflecting the internationalisation of highland games, the association also has an associate member category for overseas events and other organisations linked to Scottish highland games. For more information and a full list of member events, please visit Scottish Highland Games Association.