Reforming ‘tied’ pubs system could create more jobs, Labour MSP says

February 17 2017, 12.27pmUpdated: February 17 2017, 9.15pm
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Changing the law to give so-called “tied” pubs more choice over what they sell could help create more jobs in the brewing industry and licensed trade, Labour has claimed.

MSP Neil Bibby has put forward draft proposals in a bid to help pub landlords who have a “tied” arrangement with large companies that own them, often known as “pubcos”.

These require landlords to buy some or all of their products from the “pubco”, which can restrict the choice of beer, cider, wine and spirits for drinkers, and can force pub tenants to sell more expensive drinks.

More relaxed rules were introduced in England and Wales from May 2016 and while there is a voluntary code in place in Scotland, critics say this does not go as far as the statutory arrangements south of the border.

The Campaign for Real Ale (Camra) has claimed Scottish Government inaction on the issue is “letting the pubs sector down”.

West of Scotland MSP Mr Bibby has put forward proposals for a member’s bill, with a consultation on the issue due to open on February 20.

He said his planned Tied Pubs (Code and Adjudicator) (Scotland) Bill aimed to provide “f airness for Scotland’s publicans, greater choice for pub customers and an opportunity to protect and create jobs in Scotland’s pub and brewing industry”.

Scotland has an estimated 1,000 “tied” pubs and Mr Bibby added: “P ub tenants should have the ability to opt out of the tied arrangements if they wish.

“I know from speaking with tied pub tenants in my own area in the west of Scotland how one-sided these arrangements can be.

“Access to a fair and reasonable market rent for premises, without strings attached, should be a right for Scottish publicans.

“They will then be free to source and purchase products as they see fit, on the same basis as other pubs in Scotland, and pubs in England and Wales.”

Camra national chairman Colin Valentine said he expected the consultation will “paint a picture of pubs struggling to survive across Scotland, with examples of large pub companies taking more than is fair or sustainable from individual publicans’ profits”.

He added: “The Scottish Government’s inaction on this issue is letting the pubs sector down.

“Pubs in Scotland deserve the same level of protection as they have in England and Wales, and we hope this new research will persuade the Scottish Government to make the appropriate reforms.”

Paul Waterson, chief executive of the Scottish Licensed Trade Association, said: ” It is only fair that Scottish tenants are afforded the same rights and safeguards as their counterparts in England and Wales.”

Martin Doran, of the GMB Scotland union, said that ” by tackling the pubco giants, it can deliver fairness for tied pubs tenants, give more choice for punters and help create a more level playing field for Scottish brewers”.

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: ” The vast majority of pubs in Scotland are freehold, rather than tied tenancies, unlike in England and Wales.

“A study last year could not find evidence that any one part of Scotland’s pub sector was unfairly disadvantaged in relation to another.

“Scottish ministers are still considering this issue and will meet with a wide range of relevant parties over the coming months to get their views in line with one of the recommendations from the study.”

Business minister Paul Wheelhouse has already pledged to meet Mr Bibby to discuss the issues.

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