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Scottish Government Moves To Transform Tied Pubs Sector

Scottish Government Moves to Transform Tied Pubs Sector

The Scottish Government is taking action to improve the rights of tied pub tenants across the country.

A new Scottish Pubs Code will enable eligible tied pub tenants to sell a guest beer from brands that have small production levels or switch to a market rate lease under which they could purchase products from any supplier.

Ministers will lay secondary legislation in Parliament next week which, if approved, would see the Code come into force on 7 October 2024. It will be overseen by an Adjudicator who is expected to be appointed next month, subject to parliamentary approval.

A tied lease involves tenants buying some or all of their alcohol and other products and services from the pub-owning business.

Ministers expect the legislation will deliver a fairer tied pubs sector, with risks and rewards being more equally shared between tenants and their landlords. In 2023, it was estimated that there were just under 700 tied pubs in Scotland.

Small Business Minister Richard Lochhead said:

“We need to do all we can to protect pubs, bars and licensed clubs in Scotland, which in 2022 supported 34,000 jobs throughout the country and play an important role in our communities.

“I am pleased that we are now free to introduce measures contained in the Tied Pubs Act and give tenants more freedom to choose the lease which best suits their needs and diversify the number of products they can sell.

“It’s in everyone’s interest that the sector prospers and I look forward to working with tenants, pub-owning businesses and the new Scottish Pubs Code Adjudicator to deliver these important changes.”

In responding to the announcement, the Scottish Licensed Trade Association welcomed the introduction of the Tied Pubs (Scotland) Act, announced this morning by the Scottish Government.

Gavin Stevenson, the SLTA’s tied pubs policy adviser, an Inverness-based publican, said: “This act will regulate the tied pubs sector and provide some of the same protections that tenants in England have long enjoyed.

“However, we are extremely disappointed in the delays to implementation, first as a result of Scottish Government insisting on an extended two-year period for the Act to take effect, then by the obstructive behaviour of some of the tied pub companies in pursuing protracted, but futile, legal challenges, and now by the Scottish Government announcing that the Act will not take full effect until much later this year.

“Scottish tied pub tenants cannot afford any further delay, and we urge the Scottish Government to accelerate implementation.”

The SLTA, which represents independent licensees, has long been a supporter of both the Tied Pubs (Scotland) Bill and a Scottish Pubs Code, claiming that many Scottish tied pub tenants have lost their livelihoods and savings as a result of “rapacious pubco behaviour”.

It previously said that measures in the Bill would strengthen the position of tenants in their relationship with landlords, and put Scottish tenants on an equal footing with their counterparts in England. A statutory code of conduct has been in place in England for several years.

The Bill, put forward by Labour MSP Neil Bibby, was backed by a broad coalition including the SLTA, the Campaign for Real Ale (Camra), GMB Scotland, the Federation of Small Businesses, the Scottish Tourism Alliance, the Pubs Advisory Service, and many small brewers.

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