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Cheers! Do you want to see more local beers on sale at the pub?

Maurice Golden MSP wants people to respond to a Scottish Government consultation on allowing guest beers

Do you like to see local beer when you go out to the pub for a drink? That’s the question being put to punters by the Scottish Government, which is looking to introduce rules to allow tied pubs to feature guest beers alongside their normal offering.

This ‘guest beer agreement’ is part of the government’s proposed Scottish Pubs Code, which will oversee how pub companies and tied pub tenants work with each other.

However the Society of Independent Brewers wants to see the wording of this draft agreement changed, as they fear these guest beer slots will be taken up by globally-owned brands rather than local independent brewers.

Members of the public were given until the end of Monday January 17 to have their say on the proposals.

More support for small brewers

The society hopes people took the chance to respond to the government’s consultation and share how important they think it is for pubs to showcase local beers.

In the draft code, it says: “[The agreement] allows a tenant to sell to their customers at least one beer that the tenant has chosen (regardless of who produces it), at a price of the tenant’s choice.

“The beer can be changed as often as the tenant wishes with no penalty.”

At the moment it is thought the beers that could feature here will be those with a small production capacity of less than 60,000 hectolitres a year.

It is hoped this will support small brewers as well as improving choice in pubs up and down the country.

Pub-goers want more small batch beer

However, the current proposals do not specify the beer needs to be made locally or indeed needs to come from a Scottish brewer – this is something the Society of Independent Brewers wants to see changed.

New proposals could see more independent beers on the menu

They want the government to redraft the proposed code to make sure tenants stock locally-brewed beers by defining a ‘guest beer’ in reference to a brewery rather than in reference to a brand.

Jamie Delap, regional director of the society, said: “Pub-goers want to see more beer from small breweries sold in Scottish pubs and the guest beer agreement promised to help to achieve this.

“However, as currently defined by the Scottish Government, it is unlikely to meet these objectives and lead to a more bland beer from global brewers being offered instead.

“The only way to ensure that consumer choice is improved is through defining the agreement in reference to a small brewer rather than a brand and we hope that the Scottish Government will listen so that pub tenants can meet customers’ expectations.”

‘It’s worth letting the government know’

Maurice Golden, a Conservative MSP in the North East, says as many people as possible should share their views with the government consultation while they still can.

He said: “If you value the importance of guest beers in your local pub then it’s worth letting the Scottish Government know about it.

Maurice Golden, North East MSP

“Everyone appreciates how much pleasure these alternatives bring to pub-goers.

“But they also support vital local jobs, boost the economy nearby and underline the importance of backing local produce.

“This is an important piece of legislation and it’s vital we get it right.

“Now we need to persuade the Scottish Government of the importance of this relatively simple tweak to the proposals.”

Important government gets it right

The Scottish Beer and Pub Association has submitted its thoughts to the Scottish Government already, and says it is vital this new code is done right.

An association spokesperson said: “During the passage of the Tied Pub (Scotland) Act, the Scottish Beer and Pub Association maintained that the legislation was completely unsuitable for Scotland would cause significant damage to a sector already under great pressure.

“However, we have committed to engaging constructively with the Scottish Government and other stakeholders to ensure the new Scottish Pubs Code is as workable as possible for the sector and to mitigate the long-lasting damage to Scottish pubs.

“This is reflected in our response today on the MRO (market-rent only) and guest beer provisions and it is vital that the Scottish Government get this right.”

Please save our pubs – tenants send letter to Nicola Sturgeon seeking halt to ‘ruinous’ legislation

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