Legislation reforming some of Scotland’s pubs will be approved in principle by MSPs, after the Scottish Government announced it would back the changes in a vote.
Business minister Jamie Hepburn confirmed the Scottish Government would be supporting the general principles of a new law being brought forward by Labour MSP Neil Bibby.
He is seeking to change the legislation surrounding so-called tied pubs – those owned by breweries where the landlords are required to buy beer from them.
The member’s Bill he has proposed 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.
The Scottish Parliament’s Economy Committee said earlier this month that with only 750 tied pubs in Scotland, there was not enough evidence to suggest widespread problems that needed to be dealt with by legislation.
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.
Mr Hepburn said it was a “challenging issue” and that the government had “listened carefully to the evidence, as we said we would do”.
He added: “Whilst most landlord-tenant relationships are strong and effective, it appears to be that this is not always the case.
“Ultimately we want to see fair and equitable treatment within commercial agreements and a successful tenanted pub sector all across Scotland.
“On balance, therefore, the Scottish Government will be supporting the general principles of this Bill and we look forward to working with its sponsor, Neil Bibby MSP, and the Parliament on the next stages of the legislative process.”
Mr Bibby said: “The news that the Scottish Government will back my Tied Pubs Bill at stage one is incredibly welcome, and is good news for all those whose livelihoods depend on the tied pub sector.”
He added: “The Tied Pubs Bill would deliver fairness for Scotland’s tied pub tenants, more choice for consumers and action to protect jobs in the pub and brewing industries.
“A statutory Pubs Code providing a fair share of risk and reward to tenants would help local pubs keep more of the profit they make in the Scottish economy. It would also curb the unfair practices of those PubCos who have taken more than their fair share from their tenants for too long.”