MSPs Jackie Baillie and Neil Bibby MSP visiting The Glencairn in Bridge Street, Dumbarton, pictured with licensee Tommy Murray.
By Paul Cassidy
A landmark Bill to deliver greater fairness and choice for pubs has been lodged at the Scottish Parliament and it has the backing of local Dumbarton MSP, Jackie Baillie.
By resetting the relationship between tied public house tenants and their company landlords, the Members Bill lodged by Labour MSP Neil Bibby is designed to make rents and leases fairer for licensees.
It could also increase choice for consumers, by making it easier to bring locally-brewed products to the market and protect jobs in the pub and brewing industry.
In Scotland, there are hundreds of pubs in ‘tied’ agreements in which pub tenants rent from pub owners, with an obligation to purchase alcohol from a particular brewery or spirit merchant.
This can leave some tied pubs worse off than others, which have no tied arrangement.
If passed at Holyrood, the Tied Pubs (Code and Adjudicator) (Scotland) Bill will create a statutory Pubs Code to regulate the relationship between tied pub tenants and their pub-owning landlords. An independent adjudicator to enforce the code.
That code would be based on the principle of fair and lawful dealing and would make sure that no tied pub tenant is worse off than a pub that is free-of-tie. In England and Wales, new tied pub laws are already in place.
The proposal has won the cross-party support amongst MSPs. A public consultation found that 93 per cent of responses were supportive of the Bill.
During the consultation, the campaign for tied pub reform has been backed by a broad coalition including the Scottish Licensed Trade Association, the Campaign for Real Ale, GMB Scotland, the Federation of Small Businesses, the Scottish Tourism Alliance, the Pubs Advisory Service, Tennent Caledonian Breweries and many small brewers.
Jackie Baillie visited a tied pub, the Glencairn in Dumbarton, with Neil Bibby to talk to licensee Tommy Murray about the Bill proposals.
MSP Baillie said: “I welcome this Bill, which will call time on the unfair practices of big business pubcos. Times are tough for many small businesses and the pub sector has seen more than its fair share of closures and job losses in recent years. This Bill would allow pub tenants to opt out of their tied arrangements if they wish, giving the industry a real boost.
“It would also give local publicans the flexibility to react to changes affecting their business, offer better choices, provide cheaper prices for customers and make it easier to bring locally-brewed products into the tied pub sector, helping our local economy and boosting sustainability in Dumbarton, the Vale of Leven, Helensburgh and Lomond.”
Labour MSP Neil Bibby said: “I’m delighted to lodge this Bill to deliver fairness for Scotland’s tied pub tenants. It is designed to deliver a fair deal for tenants, greater choice for Scotland’s pub goers, and to protect jobs in the pub and brewing industries.
“The Bill will reset the relationship between tied licensees and their landlords, giving tied tenants in Scotland statutory protection for the first time. I look forward to working with MSPs and the Scottish Government to pass this Bill and change the law.”
Colin Wilkinson, Managing Director of The Scottish Licensed Trade Association, said:”Tenant licensees are in a very vulnerable position. The sector needs legislation in Scotland to ensure that pub tenants get a fair deal and that they are no worse off than a free-of-tie licensee.
“The only way to ensure Pubcos do not exploit their tenants is for the Scottish Government to introduce a robust code of conduct, which must be detailed, universal and comprehensive to avoid misinterpretations.
“There is also a need for an adjudicator to enforce that code and ensure that Pubcos are not exploiting tenants.”
Real ale group CAMRA’s Scotland Director Sarah Crawford said: ““CAMRA is really pleased to see Neil Bibby’s Tied Pubs Bill being published today and are calling on all parties in the Parliament to support it.
“Many pubs in Scotland are struggling because pub companies are taking more than is fair from the profits of their tied tenants. This just isn’t fair to people running the pubs who are struggling to make a living, and is contributing to the loss of pubs across Scotland. It also impacts on the cost of a pint, and the availability of quality locally produced beers available in our locals.
“That’s why we desperately need a Pubs Code and Adjudicator for Scotland to regulate the relationship between pub companies and their tenants, so that pub goers and licensees can get a fair deal.”