By Dave Hunter
The calls come after Westminster revealed plans to include a statutory code as part of its upcoming Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Bill.
The code, governing the relationship between pub companies and their tenants, will include a number of new rights for tenants as well as the appointment of an independent adjudicator. However, it only applies to pubs in England and Wales.
Speaking to SLTN, Lynn Adams, who runs Hamilton pub The George as well as acting as SLTA treasurer and pub code advisor, said the Westminster plans were “definitely a step in the right direction”.
“The bittersweet for me is that Scottish pubs are not part of this,” she said.
“So while it’s good [that the code exists], we’ve still got the added bit that we’ve got to get the Scottish Government on board. I’m pretty sure they will [introduce it] but it’s just going to take more time to get it established.”
She added: “Had the UK government not messed it up, because that’s exactly what they did, we would all be sitting with the same policy and conditions, rather than the Scottish lessees having to go another step.”
Proposals to form part of the Westminster Bill include the ability for tenants to call for a rent review if they have not had one for five years; the choice of whether or not to be tied for gaming machines; and the right to request the information their pub company is using to calculate their rent.
Tenants whose pub company has over 500 sites will also be able to request a ‘parallel free-of-tie rent assessment’ to see whether or not they are worse off than their free-of-tie counterparts.
The adjudicator will arbitrate on rent disputes and will be able to impose fines on pub companies found to be breaching the new code.
Announcing the proposals business secretary Vince Cable said many publicans feel their “income is squeezed by big pub companies” and the statutory code of practice would ensure lessees “get a fairer deal”.
“The introduction of a statutory code will make sure that tied tenants get an accurate assessment of how better off they could be and the new independent adjudicator would make sure pub companies are forced to act to redress the situation if they aren’t behaving responsibly,” he said.
A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “Ministers are willing to consider further evidence on this issue.”