MSPs urged to act
Scots publicans want legal cover after Star pubs case
Heineken’s pubs arm was fined for breaches of the code
Scottish publicans are demanding protection from unfair practices by pub owners following a landmark legal case in England.
The Pubs Code Adjudicator has fined Edinburgh-based Heineken UK’s pub arm Star Pubs and Bars £2 million for serious and repeated breaches of the Pubs Code – but only in England and Wales where it applies
Investigators discovered that Star had continued to impose its own Heineken beers and ciders on pub managers who asked to be free of their ties with the brewer.
Adjudicator Fiona Dickie said: “The report of my investigation is a game changer. It demonstrates that the regulator can and will act robustly to protect the rights that Parliament has given to tied tenants.”
Licensees in Scotland are currently exempt from the regulations and real and campaign group Camra says the verdict and penalty should be a wake-up call for the Scottish Parliament to give its backing to the Tied Pubs (Scotland) Bill being put forward by Neil Bibby MSP.
It is due to be debated and voted on by MSPs next month and would give tied pub tenants the same protections in law from unfair practices from pub-owning businesses.
Labour MSP Neil Bibby, who has introduced a Pubs Code Bill, said the fine “proves that regulation of the big PubCos is necessary”.
He added: “Tied publicans in Scotland must have statutory protection too. The pub trade has been hit hard by government restrictions and many of Scotland’s tied publicans were already struggling before Covid.
“The Scottish Government must now support the Tied Pubs Bill to give Scotland’s publicans a fairer deal and help the industry recover and rebuild.”
CAMRA chief executive Tom Stainer said: “This announcement from the Pubs Code Adjudicator is a good and deserved outcome for Star’s tied pub tenants – but disappointingly only for those in England and Wales.
“It isn’t fair that Star’s tenants in Scotland don’t have the same protections in law from any unfair practices like pub companies taking more than is fair or sustainable from tied licensees’ profits – or making it harder to sell a range of locally-brewed products.
“The fact that the Adjudicator for England and Wales has felt the need to use their financial penalty powers clearly shows that pub companies need to be regulated, in law.
“We are appealing to MSPs from all parties to support Neil Bibby’s Pubs Code Bill, which calls for a powerful pubs code to govern the relationship between pub companies and their tenants to ensure licensees are treated fairly.
“The pub sector as we know it is currently under threat due to the ongoing Coronavirus crisis.
“Pub companies operating across Scotland need to be supporting their tied tenants through this, treating them fairly and making sure they can earn a decent living.
“One way the Scottish Parliament can help is by voting in favour of the Tied Pubs Bill when next month.”