Pubs code bill supported by independent sector
Pub tenants in Scotland forced to pay high prices on limited products, says Federation of Small Businesses
Rural pub, Scotland, by Smart community Fife
The Scottish Government is facing renewed calls to protect pubs 'tied' to big breweries in Scotland and adopt the same codes as England and Wales.
The Federation of Small Businesses is backing a member’s bill, proposed in February by Neil Bibby MSP, which would implement the right for tenants to opt out of tied arrangements.
If passed the legislation would appoint an independent adjudicator to govern the relationship between tenants and larger pub companies who control what beer they sell.
Andy Willox, the FSB Scottish policy convenor said: “Independent Scottish pubs showcase the best in food and drink that the country has to offer. But many are faced with punishing overheads and tough competition.
“Tenants of tied pubs can pay around two thirds more for a keg of beer. It is of little wonder, then, that three quarters of them say that they’re worse off as a consequence of the tie.
“South of the border, they’ve taken action to protect pubs – they called time on ineffective industry self-regulation and limited the Pubcos’ power. Scotland must introduce similar measures.”
Tied pub tenants in Scotland are frequently required to buy stock and products from owner companies, restricting the level of choice.
Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale has previously pledged her support for the bill, highlighting the importance of supporting the struggling industry and community pubs.
In response to the FSB’s statement, Neil Bibby MSP said: “I welcome this important intervention from the Federation of Small Businesses in support of my Members Bill’ on tied pub reform.
“Fundamentally, the change is about delivering four things: fairness for pub tenants; choice for pub goers, allowing tied pubs to stock a wider range of drinks; and protecting jobs in the pub industry.
“Local publicans have told me time and again how one-sided the tied arrangements can be and they believe Scottish pub tenants should have statutory protection similar to their colleagues in England and Wales."
Around 17 percent of pubs in Scotland work under a tied arrangement compared to 40 percent I the rest of the UK.
Some have opposed the bill, saying the two situations are not comparable.
Commenting in July, chief executive of the Scottish Beer & Pub Association, Brigid Simmonds, said: “We welcome Mr Bibby’s interest in the industry but this bill would actually do the opposite of what he is setting-out to achieve.
“The pub market in Scotland is completely different to other parts of the UK, with only 17 per cent of pubs under a tied arrangement here, compared to 40 per cent in the UK as a whole. It simply doesn't work to compare like-for-like in this case.
“We would therefore urge Scottish Labour to rethink their support for these ill-conceived plans and instead pressure the government into meaningful action to support Scotland’s pubs.”
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