Tuesday, 4 April 2017
Protect Scotland’s Pubs
It is estimated that there are nearly 1000 tied pubs in Scotland with one in almost every community. Tied pubs are those ‘tied’ into rent arrangements with large owning companies – often known as ‘pubcos’.
Under the current arrangements, these tenants often have a contractual obligation to buy some or all of their products from the pubco at inflated prices. This can restrict the choice of beer, cider, wine and spirits available for customers and result in more expensive drinks.
From my experience meeting with Tied Pub tenants in my own West Scotland region, I know how one-sided these tied arrangements can be. Many tied pub tenants have described the difficultly in making a profit with increasing rents and prices. Some have also described their frustration at being unable to sell local products, which are popular with customers and support their communities.
In May 2016, a Pubs Code and Adjudicator alongside a Market Rent Only option was introduced in England and Wales to give more freedom to tied pub tenants there. It will give tied pub tenants the potential opportunity to opt out of their tied arrangements should they wish and ensure they pay a fair market price for their premises.
A new voluntary code was recently introduced in Scotland, but is not adhered to by all pub companies and does not go as far as the statutory code in England and Wales.
Under the current arrangements, Scottish tied pub tenants are unfairly disadvantaged compared with their counterparts in other parts of the UK. That’s why I have launched a consultation on a proposed Tied Pubs (Code and Adjudicator) (Scotland) Bill to make conditions fairer for tied pub tenants in Scotland.
My Bill would establish a Scottish Pub Code and Adjudicator alongside a Market Rent Only option like the one currently in place in England and Wales, giving Scottish tied publicans the same rights and opportunities as those south of the border.
This Bill is about three key things: fairness, choice and jobs. Fairness for Scotland’s publicans so that they pay a fair price for their premises and the products they sell; greater choice over the products on sale and the creation and protection of jobs in Scotland’s pub and brewing industry.
Times are tough in the pub sector in Scotland with many local community pubs under threat of closure.
Access to a fair and reasonable market rent for premises, without strings attached, should be a right for Scottish publicans. By enabling Scottish tied pub tenants the opportunity to opt out of their tied arrangements if they wish, this will provide them with the flexibility they need to react to changes affecting their business in a crowded and competitive market place. It would also provide customers with a greater choice of products at potentially lower prices.
As GMB Scotland Organiser Martin Doran has said, with greater protection for workers in the industry as well as the potential opportunity to create lots of new jobs, this proposal would provide a much needed boost to Scotland’s pub and brewing industry.
It is for all of the aforementioned reasons that this bill already has the support of several organisations including GMB Scotland, Scottish Licensed Trade Association and the Campaign for Real Ale.
The consultation will be open until the 20th of June 2017 and I would ask everyone who is passionate about their local pub and the wider pub industry in Scotland to respond. The more responses received, the more momentum we can get behind this Bill which would ensure a fairer deal for Scotland’s publicans.
For more information on the Proposed Bill and to respond to the consultation please visit our campaign website at: www.protectourpubs.scot.
Neil Bibby MSP | West Scotland | Labour