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13 July 2017, 05:27
Scots are being urged to participate in a consultation on changing the law to give so-called ''tied'' pubs more choice over what they sell.
Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale said the move would boost the struggling industry at a time when many community pubs are under threat.
She is backing Labour MSP Neil Bibby's draft proposals for a member's bill to help the estimated 1,000 pub landlords in Scotland who have a ''tied'' arrangement with large companies that own them, often known as ''pubcos''.
These require landlords to buy some or all of their products from the companies, which can restrict the choice of beer, cider, wine and spirits for drinkers, and can force pub tenants to sell more expensive drinks.
More relaxed rules were introduced in England and Wales from May 2016, and while there is a voluntary code in place in Scotland, critics say this does not go as far as the statutory arrangements south of the border.
A consultation on Mr Bibby's planned Tied Pubs Bill runs until July 31.
Ms Dugdale, who will visit a pub in Edinburgh alongside Mr Bibby, said: ''I fully support Neil Bibby's proposed Bill for tied pub reform in Scotland and urge people across Scotland to respond to the consultation.
''Times are tough for the Scottish pub industry at the moment, with many local community pubs under threat of closure.
''This proposal to allow Scottish pub tenants to opt out of their tied arrangements if they want to could help give the industry a real boost.
''It would give publicans the flexibility they need to react to changes affecting their business in a crowded and competitive market place.''
Mr Bibby added: ''This proposal is about fairness, choice and jobs.
''Fairness for Scotland's publicans, greater choice for pub customers and an opportunity to protect and create jobs in Scotland's pub and brewing industry.
''Access to a fair and reasonable market rent for premises, without strings attached, should be a right for Scottish publicans.
''They will then be free to source and purchase products as they see fit, on the same basis as other pubs in Scotland, and pubs in England and Wales.''