MSPs pass Bill to reform Scotland's tied pubs

By Stuart Stone contact

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'Landmark moment': Members of Scottish Parliament have passed The Tied Pubs (Scotland) Bill heralding the creation of a statutory pubs code and an independent adjudicator role
'Landmark moment': Members of Scottish Parliament have passed The Tied Pubs (Scotland) Bill heralding the creation of a statutory pubs code and an independent adjudicator role

Related tags: Legislation, Scotland, Beer

Members of Scottish Parliament have passed The Tied Pubs (Scotland) Bill heralding the creation of a statutory pubs code and an independent adjudicator role.

Passed on the evening of 23 March, The Tied Pubs (Scotland) Bill was originally put forward by Labour MSP Neil Bibby in an effort to ensure tenants in brewery-owned pubs are not bound to what are seen to be unfair deals. 

Bibby stated that while the idea of tied pubs – of which there are 750 in Scotland – was “sound”, he added that some operators are left working long hours for less than minimum wage.

As reported by Insider.co.uk, Bibby said the Bill aimed to fulfil three principles: “fair and lawful dealing, that tied tenants should be no worse off because of the tie, that tied deals provide a fair share of risk and reward”.

He added that its passage will now see those aims realised by allowing tenants to request agreements based on market level rent and freedom from being told where to buy their stock. 

“Although today will hopefully prove to be the end of a long journey for this Bill, it’s only the start of a new chapter for the sector,” he said.

“The next session of the parliament will see the Scottish Government consulting fully, meaningfully and thoroughly on a draft code.

“It will be vital for the future of the sector to get that code right. 

“It is my hope that after today pub owning businesses and tenants and their representative bodies put aside any differences and work together collaboratively and constructively to ensure the success of the code which will benefit so many people in Scotland.”

‘Sad day’ or ‘landmark moment’? 

Prior to the vote, Edith Monfries, Scottish Beer & Pub Association (SBPA) president and COO of Hawthorn, claimed she was “truly disappointed and utterly mystified”​ by the decision to present the Bill – which she stated could change the fabric of Scotland’s pub landscape “forever”.

"The Tied Pub business model has existed for generations," she explained. "In simple terms, a pub company who owns a pub leases it to a pub tenant who runs his or her own business.

In return for investment in the pub, low-cost start-up costs and subsidised rent, the tenant purchases beer through the pub company.  

"This partnership model means both parties share in the good times and bad, the risks and rewards."

While the SBPA said the passage of the Bill was a “sad day for Scotland’s pubs”, according to Insider.co.uk, adding that it would put “the recovery of our sector in greater jeopardy”, Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) Scotland’s director Joe Crawford hailed its success. 

“This represents a landmark moment for tied tenants across Scotland, and our members have lobbied hard to ensure their MSPs understood just how important this Bill is to consumers,” she said.

“The Bill will help ensure that those running tied pubs are treated fairly, can earn a decent living and can build back better after the crisis.”

What’s more, Scottish Licensed Trade Association spokesperson Paul Waterson added: “It’s simply not fair that large pub-owning businesses can restrict pub tenants to buying beer at vastly inflated prices and force so many to live in virtual poverty. 

“As the bill progresses into law we look forward to engaging constructively and positively with Scottish Government and all other stakeholders while the code is developed.”

Related topics: Legislation

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