Wed. Jan 20th, 2021

Scottish Labour MSP Neil Bibby has accused a parliamentary committee of joining forces to reject a Bill designed to protect pub tenants from ‘unfair’ practices.

The Scottish Parliament Economy, Energy and Fair Work Committee’s report on the Tied Pubs (Scotland) Bill has been branded a ‘slap in the face’ for Scotland’s tied pub tenants at the worst possible time for the industry.

Bibby, a West of Scotland MSP, claims that the committee joined forces to recommend that MSPs to vote down the Bill.

The Bill would create a statutory Pubs Code, an independent Adjudicator and aims to prevent locking publicans into restrictive, unfair tied pubs deals. England and Wales already have an adjudicator.

There Edinburgh-based Star Pubs and Bars, owned by Heineken, were fined £2 million for serious and repeated breaches of its Pubs Code by forcing tenants to accept its brands.

The Committee, whilst commending the intent behind the Bill, were not agreed that legislation is required, and said they do not support the general principles of the Bill.

However, a minority of the Committee agrees that there is an imbalance in the relationship between pub tenants and landlords and that the provisions in the Bill would help to ensure a fairer balance of risk and reward.

Neil Bibby MSP 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.

“The powers of the Scottish Parliament should be used to make the economy fairer and to support small businesses and local producers. Instead SNP and Tory MSPs have sided with big multinationals who are extracting profit from small businesses who need our support.

“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?”

Photo: Tied Pubs Bill Launch back in 2017. Pictured left to right : Paul Waterson (Chief Executive SLTA), Neil Bibby MSP, Ray Turpie (Campaign For Real Ale)
Photo Credit: Andy Buchanan

SLTA spokesperson Paul Waterson said: “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.

“Failure to support Scottish tenants at a time when the whole industry is in crisis is unforgivable and Scottish tenants are very much the poor relations.”

Responding to the publication of the Scottish Parliament Committee’s report, 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. This Bill will create, in law, a powerful pubs code to guarantee tied pub tenants are treated fairly and can earn a decent living.

“Scottish Government 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.

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.