Tied Pubs Bill would destroy investment at most crucial time says SBPA

The Scottish Beer and Pub Association is calling on MSPs to reject the proposed Tied Pubs Bill when it is voted on next week in the Scottish parliament because if passed it threatens to stifle much needed future investment in the wake of the pandemic.

The Bill seeks to strengthen the position of Scotland’s tied tenants in their dealings with pub owning companies but it has already been voted against by MSPs on Holyrood’s Economy, Energy and Fair Work Committee which the Bill’s author, Labour MSP Neil Bibby, called ‘a slap in the face.’ If it is voted against next week, it will be thrown out for good.

Said Emma McClarkin, Chief Executive of the Scottish Beer & Pub Association, “This Bill is not evidence-based, and far from helping Scotland’s pubs, it poses a real danger to future investment in the sector, entrepreneurship opportunities, threatens jobs and it should be resoundingly rejected by MSPs.

“Covid-19 has decimated the pub sector in Scotland. Pubs directly support over 45,000 jobs in Scotland and many of them face an uncertain future as they struggle to get back on their feet and adapt to the changing circumstances that Covid-19 presents.

“Pubs need support from MSPs, not legislation that misunderstands the Scottish market and has already been found to be unnecessary by an independent report commissioned by the Scottish Government and the Scottish Parliament’s Economy Committee.

“The fact is, this Bill was ill conceived before Covid-19, but it would be economically ruinous to the sector if it was passed in the current circumstances and it is vital that all MSPs show their support for Scottish pubs by voting this Bill down at Stage 1.”

But this has divided the trade with Scottish Licensed Trade Association (SLTA) spokesperson Paul Waterson calling the rejection of the bill by the committee “unforgivable”.

He said, “The SLTA are bitterly disappointed by the Economy Committee’s report. We don’t see how anyone can justify opposing legislation in Scotland when there was cross-party support from the SNP, Conservatives, Labour and others in Westminster for legislation to protect tied licensees in England and Wales.

“Failure to support Scottish tenants at a time when the whole industry is in crisis is unforgivable and Scottish tenants are very much the poor relations.”

Pubs tenants have also urged MSPs to save their pubs by voting against the Tied Pubs Bill.

Operator Andrena Bowes, who is tenant and operator of seven pubs in the Edinburgh, the Lothians and Fife said, “The coronavirus has devastated the pub sector and politicians should be focused on that, not wasting time on proposals which aren’t wanted and definitely not needed.

“As a tenant under the tied model, I can speak personally of its success and joint-partnership model, which sees a sharing of the risks and rewards.

“During the pandemic, my pub company has provided constant advice, support, reimbursement for unusable stock and have also reduced rent, which without would have forced us to close our doors for good.

“The news that this proposal is even being considered in light of the pandemic makes you want to cry. Hospitality businesses are begging for meaningful economic support that could save their livelihoods and jobs of their staff, and politicians are wasting time discussing technical rules which impacts a tiny minority of pubs.

“Above all, pubs need certainty, but Neil Bibby’s bill removes what little certainty we have at this time. MSPs can give a little bit back by voting against the Tied Pubs Bill next week.

“MSPs of all parties need to stop playing politics and start saving pubs.”