Holyrood refusal over Scotland pubs' reform branded 'slap in the face'

A Holyrood committee's refusal to back reforms for some of Scotland's pubs has been branded a "slap in the face" by the MSP seeking to change the law.

Labour's Neil Bibby is seeking to change the law on so-called tied pubs - those owned by breweries with tenants required to buy beer from them.

The member's Bill he proposed set 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.

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But after scrutinising the Tied Pubs (Scotland) Bill, a majority of MSPs on the Scottish Parliament's Economy Committee concluded that with 750 tied pubs in Scotland there is not enough evidence to suggest any widespread problems that need to be dealt with by legislation.

A 'SOS Save our Bars' billboard campaign bids to save Glasgow jobs. Picture: John Devlin
A 'SOS Save our Bars' billboard campaign bids to save Glasgow jobs. Picture: John Devlin

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The committee report said while MSPs supported the "intent behind the Bill" they were "not agreed that legislation is required" and did not support the general principles of it.

This was backed by six SNP and Tory MSPs on the committee.

The sole Labour MSP on the committee opposed it, along with the Green member, while Conservative committee convener Gordon Lindhurst abstained.

With the Bill having been supported by organisations such as the Scottish Licensed Trade Association (SLTA), the Campaign for Real Ale (Camra), the Federation of Small Businesses Scotland, the trade union GMB Scotland and brewers at Tennent Caledonian, Mr Bibby the committee had "got it wrong".

He said: "Scotland's tied publicans were getting a raw deal before the pandemic and now they are in crisis.

"Now, more than ever, we need to intervene to support publicans.

"This Bill would rebalance the relationship between tied tenants and the big PubCos at a critical time."

Mr Bibby added: "The committee's failure to comprehend, never mind endorse, reform is a slap in the face for Scotland's tied publicans.

"Instead, SNP and Tory MSPs have sided with big multinationals who are extracting profit from small businesses who need our support.

"While pub tenants in England and Wales have statutory protection, which the Tory Government are prepared to strengthen, Tory and SNP MSPs inexplicably want to leave tenants in Scotland with no rights at all."

SLTA spokesman Paul Waterson said it was left "bitterly disappointed" by the report.

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