British Pub Confederation

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A victory for Scotland’s pub tenants and small brewers as the Scottish Parliament passes the Tied Pubs (Scotland) Bill

The British Pub Confederation and Confederation members the Scottish Licensed Trade Association, the Campaign for Pubs, the Pubs Advisory Service and the GMB Scotland have welcomed the passing of the Tied Pubs (Scotland) Bill which will bring in a statutory Pubs Code and the right to a Market Rent Only (free-of-tie) option for Scottish pub tenants.

The Bill, introduced and taken through the Scottish Parliament, by pro-pub MSP Neil Bibby, a Labour MSP for the West Scotland Region, will at last give Scottish tenants similar rights to those in England and Wales, but with a much simpler, stronger right to pursue the Market Rent Only option and go free of tie on a market rent, not one dictated by the pubco. The Bill will now lead to the drafting and publication of a statutory Pubs Code and appointment of a Pubs Code Adjudicator. This follows a long campaign to achieve rights for those Scottish publicans who are tied, to pubcos and breweries and who have to pay well above market prices for beer and other products.    

The Tied Pubs Bill gives Scottish tied pub tenants the right to go free of tie, if they are unhappy with the tied arrangement offered by their pub-owning company.  This will stop the large pubcos and global brewers, who own over 700 pubs in Scotland, from charging excessive inflated prices to their tenants and taking more than is fair or reasonable from pub profits.

A survey, conducted by the SLTA, released this month found that almost 60% of tenants in tied agreements earn less than the minimum wage when taking into account the hours they work. 50% earn less than £20,000 despite the enormous commitment they make to their business.

The Tied Pubs Bill delivers a fairer deal for tied publicans, by rebalancing the skewed relationship with the large pubcos, allowing tenants to opt-out of unfair and exploitative tied deals. It will give publicans more choice over the drinks they stock to help meet consumer demand, promote Scottish products and sustain their business. The Tied Pubs Bill will also be very positive for Scotland’s small brewers, who at the moment are restricted from access to pubs owned by the big brewers and pubcos operating the tie.

The British Pub Confederation and the Fair Deal for Your Local campaign have been campaigning for a fair deal for Scottish tenants, as well as for English and Welsh tenants, since the Fair Deal for Your Local campaign was formed in 2013. In October 2013, British Pub Confederation Chair and Campaign for Pubs Campaign Director Greg Mulholland, led a Fair Deal for Your Local coalition visit to the Scottish Parliament and met with supportive MSPs and met the then Minister, Fergus Ewing MSP, to lobby for rights for Scottish pub tenants.

Earlier today, the coalition of supportive organisations wrote to all MSPs calling on them to support the Bill and herald in a new era of fairness for Scotland’s pub tenants.

The British Pub Confederation, Campaign for Pubs and Fair Deal for Your Local campaign will continue to campaign for the Scottish Pubs Code to deliver the clear rights envisaged by the Scottish Parliament, something that didn’t happen with the Pubs code for England and Wales, which was watered down behind closed doors. The organisations will also continue to campaign for a genuinely independent Scottish Pubs Code Adjudicator, again, something that didn’t happen with the England and Wales PCA.

Commenting, Greg Mulholland, Campaign Director of the Campaign for Pubs and Chair of the British Pub Confederation said:

“It’s great news for Scottish tenants and small brewers that the Scottish Parliament has backed the Tied Pubs Bill to give Scottish pub tenants statutory protection from exploitation and the right to go free-of-tie, if their pub-owning company’s tied model isn’t fair.

“We commend Neil for his leadership on this issue and his passion and determination to get this into law in Scotland. Ever since the Pubs Code and a Market Rent Only option were introduced in England and Wales, there has been a need for action to protect Scottish tenants, but what is very pleasing is that the Tied Pubs Bill has learnt from some of the failures of the legislation in England and has looked at introducing a much simpler and clearer right to the all-important Market Rent Only option, the simple right to go free of tie, if tied arrangements and prices are not fair and reasonable”.

“The British Pub Confederation and Campaign for Pubs have been delighted to support Neil and his office and to work with the SLTA, Pubs Advisory Service, CAMRA, the GMB and the Scottish Cooperative Party, as well as supportive MSPs from different parties. This has been a victory for publicans, pro-pub campaigners and people power”.

Colin Wilkinson, Managing Director of the Scottish Licensed Trade Association and a Steering Group member of the British Pub Confederation said:

“The SLTA is delighted with the unanimous and cross party vote tonight to pass the Tied Pubs (Scotland) Bill into legislation.  This Member’s Bill is a real tribute to the perseverance of the member in charge, Neil Bibby MSP, and we’d like to thank Neil and his entire team for the support shown over many years to get to this stage.

“We would also like to thank the Scottish Government Minister for Business, Fair Work and Skills, Jamie Hepburn, for the careful consideration shown to protecting the fundamental principles of the bill and ensuring that tied pub tenants will be able to avail themselves of MRO and Guest Beer rights without the impediments and onerous conditions in the comparable English legislation.  We are also comforted by the Minister’s assurances that the legislation will be enacted as quickly as possible and that the two-year limit is very much a backstop and not a target.

“This bill provides an urgently needed financial lifeline to struggling Scottish tenants and we look forward to working closely with the Scottish Government and all other stakeholders in the development of the Code.”

Chris Wright, Pubs Advisory Service and a Steering Group member of the British Pub Confederation said:

“The Pubs Advisory Service is delighted to say it has prevailed once again and we wholeheartedly thank the Scottish government for listening to us and tied tenants. This Bill avoids the pitfalls of the English and Welsh code, it benchmarks the code in England and Wales.

Tenants in England and Wales will understandably want parity with fellow publicans in Scotland and we shall be asking the Westminster government to make the playing field truly level for all pub tenants running Great British pubs. Tied tenants in Scotland can look forward to a profitable future under their new code”.