Report rejects Bill
MSPs slammed for failing to support publicans
Heineken was fined in England but the law does not apply in Scotland
A committee of MSPs has been accused of siding with big multinationals by rejecting a Bill designed to protect pub tenants from ‘unfair and restrictive’ practices.
Labour MSP Neil Bibby says the government should set up a Scottish Pubs Adjudicator to oversee a Scottish Pubs Code ensuring fair treatment of publicans.
England and Wales already have an adjudicator who last month fined Edinburgh-based Heineken UK’s pub arm Star Pubs and Bars £2 million for serious and repeated breaches of its Pubs Code by forcing tenants to accept its brands.
However, the Scottish Parliament Economy, Energy and Fair Work Committee’s has found “little evidence to suggest widespread problems exist that warrant primary legislation”.
In their report on the Tied Pubs Bill, sponsored by Mr Bibby, committee members have concluded that they do not support the general principles of the Bill.
Mr Bibby today dubbed the report a ‘slap in the face’ for Scotland’s tied pub tenants at the worst possible time for the industry.
Tied pub reform is supported by the Scottish Licensed Trade Association (SLTA), the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA), FSB Scotland, GMB Scotland, the Pubs Advisory Service, the Campaign for Pubs, the British Pub Confederation, Scottish Co-operative Party, the Society of Independent Brewers, Tennent Caledonian and many publicans across Scotland.
Mr Bibby said: “The SNP – Tory majority on this Committee got it wrong. Their report flies in the face of the evidence placed before them.
“Scotland’s tied publicans were getting a raw deal before the pandemic and now they are in crisis. Now, more than ever, we need to intervene to support publicans.
“This Bill would rebalance the relationship between tied tenants and the big PubCos at a critical time. The Committee’s failure to comprehend, never mind endorse, reform is a slap in the face for Scotland’s tied publicans.
Paul Waterson: ‘bitterly disappointed’
“While pub tenants in England and Wales have statutory protection, which the Tory government are prepared to strengthen, Tory and SNP MSPs inexplicably want to leave tenants in Scotland with no rights at all.
“Now the Scottish Government must decide whose side they are on: Scotland’s publicans or the big multinational pub-companies?”
SLTA spokesman Paul Waterson added: “The SLTA are bitterly disappointed by the Economy Committee’s report. We don’t see how anyone can justify opposing legislation in Scotland when there was cross-party support from the SNP, Conservatives, Labour and others in Westminster for legislation to protect tied licensees in England and Wales.”
CAMRA Scotland director Joe Crawford said: “CAMRA is calling on Business Minister Jamie Hepburn and the Scottish Government to do the right thing and give their backing to the Tied Pubs Bill when it is debated later this month.”
The Bill is due to be debated in the chamber in the coming weeks. While the committee heard from tenants who supported the aims of the Bill, with only 750 tied pubs in Scotland, the majority of the Committee said it saw little evidence to suggest widespread problems exist that warrant primary legislation.
Deputy committee convener, Willie Coffey, said: “Pubs play an integral role in Scotland’s economy and local communities. The existential challenges that they have faced over the last six months cannot be downplayed. It is therefore vital that tied pub arrangements are beneficial for both tenant and pub-owner, both now and in the future.
“While the committee commend the intentions behind this Bill, the majority felt there was a lack of hard independent evidence which suggested that a widespread imbalance exists.
“The Committee believes that primary legislation is not needed and therefore do not agree to the general principles of the Bill.
“However, a minority of the committee did agree that there is an imbalance in the relationship between pub tenant and landlords and felt that the proposed legislation could be part of the solution.”