‘Overdue reform’ of tied pubs agreed in principle

The Scottish Government has made clear it wants changes to be made to a proposed new law.

‘Overdue reform’ of tied pubs agreed in principle Getty Images

Legislation that will bring “overdue reform” to part of Scotland’s pub sector has passed a key vote at Holyrood.

But the Scottish Government has made clear it wants changes to be made to a proposed new law on tied pubs if it is to gain overall approval.

Business minister Jamie Hepburn confirmed the Scottish Government supported the general principles of the Tied Pubs (Scotland) Bill, which has been brought forward by Labour MSP Neil Bibby.

Speaking at Holyrood, Hepburn said: “My conclusion is the Scottish Government should support this Bill at stage one.

“But I must be clear that our continued support is contingent on securing amendments to the Bill, a matter I have discussed with Mr Bibby already.”

The Labour MSP’s member’s Bill sets out plans for a statutory pubs code and an independent adjudicator in a bid to stop publicans from being locked into restrictive and unfair deals.

Hepburn said the government wanted to see changes made to lengthen the time over which the measures in the Bill will be implemented, saying this was needed for an industry “still dealing with Covid-19”.

Ministers also want to ensure those who have been tenants in tied pubs cannot raise cases long after they have left the sector.

There are only about 750 tied pubs in Scotland, which are owned by breweries with the landlords required to buy beer from them.

Earlier this month, Holyrood’s Economy Committee had said there was not enough evidence to suggest widespread problems in the sector that needed to be dealt with by legislation.

But Bibby argued the Bill had been brought forward at a “critical time” for the industry, after coronavirus restrictions forced the closure of many pubs.

“The Tied Pubs Bill gives much-needed hope for tied publicans that the sector can build back better and that overdue reform is almost here,” he said.

He told MSPs that changes to help the tied pub sector had been introduced in England and Wales in 2015, with cross-party support there.

Bibby vowed he would work with the Scottish Government and other parties at Holyrood to secure “consensus and further improvements” to his Bill.