Bill to be approved
Ministers expected to back pubs protection bill
Heineken, based in Edinburgh, was fined in England
The Scottish Government is expected to back a call for legislation to protect pub landlords from unfair treatment by big brewers.
Business minister Jamie Hepburn said the Government would be supporting the general principles of a new Tied Pubs Bill being brought forward by Labour MSP Neil Bibby.
Licensees in Scotland are currently exempt from regulations that are in place across the rest of Britain which stop large pub companies from taking more than is fair or sustainable from pub profits by forcing licensees to buy their beer from them rather than on the open market.
Mr Bibby has campaigned for a statutory pubs code and an independent adjudicator similar to the system in place in England and Wales in a bid to stop publicans from being locked into restrictive and unfair deals.
The Scottish Parliament’s Economy Committee said earlier this month that with only 750 tied pubs in Scotland, there was not enough evidence to suggest widespread problems that needed to be dealt with by legislation.
The committee report said while MSPs supported the “intent behind the Bill” they were “not agreed that legislation is required” and did not support the general principles of it.
However, Mr Hepburn said the government had listened carefully to the evidence and that whilst most landlord-tenant relationships are strong and effective, “it appears to be that this is not always the case”.
He said: “On balance, therefore, the Scottish Government will be supporting the general principles of this Bill and we look forward to working with its sponsor, Neil Bibby MSP, and the Parliament on the next stages of the legislative process.”
Jamie Hepburn: ‘supporting the principle’ (pic: Terry Murden)
Neil Bibby said: “The news that the Scottish Government will back my Tied Pubs Bill at stage one is incredibly welcome, and is good news for all those whose livelihoods depend on the tied pub sector.”
The issue came to public attention when Heineken’s pub arm, Star Pubs and Bars was fined £2 million by England and Wales’ Pubs Code Adjudicator for serious and repeated breaches of the Pubs Code.
But despite being headquartered in Edinburgh, Heineken’s Scottish tenants do not enjoy similar protections
Scottish legislation would help to improve consumer choice at the bar by ensuring more small and independent breweries are ‘on tap’ in Scottish pubs.
The bill would also guarantee that tenants running tied pubs can buy their products at a fair price, keeping prices down in pubs for punters.
Speaking ahead of a debate today CAMRA’s Scotland Director Joe Crawford said: “This bill ensures that tied publicans can earn a decent living, buy their stock at a fair price and increase the range of beers on offer from small and independent breweries – something that is desperately needed amidst the backdrop of the Coronavirus crisis.
“Support for this legislation would be very warmly welcomed by both consumers and the licenced trade as a positive move to help pubs, publicans and pub-goers, after weeks and months of harsh restrictions which are devastating the industry.”