Pubs play a crucial role in the social, cultural, and economic life of this country, and also help promote responsible drinking. I believe, therefore, that it is vital that the pub sector gets the support it needs to flourish.
Many of the policy areas relevant to supporting pubs are devolved here in Scotland, and so it is for the Scottish Government to ensure that Scottish pubs get the same sort of support that English pubs get from the UK Government.
Unfortunately, the SNP-led Scottish Government has let pubs and other Scottish small businesses down by making a mess of the business rates system here, to the extent that Scottish businesses are now having to pay £14 million more in tax than they would if they were based in England.
The UK Government has worked hard to support English pubs. The Asset of Community Value scheme ensures that local communities can save a pub if an owner wishes to sell it; a £3.6 million scheme to help communities own their local pub was introduced in 2016; and ‘tied’ pubs owned by one of the big pub companies now have greater rights to ensure they can get a better deal from the company.
However, the Scottish Government has failed to follow the UK Government’s lead and introduce comparable schemes that would help the Scottish pub sector. I am confident that my Scottish Conservative colleagues in Holyrood will continue to hold the Scottish Government to account and stand up for all Scottish small businesses, including pubs.