Scotland’s only two-star Michelin chef Andrew Fairlie has today condemned ice-cream manufacturer Maitland Mackie for questioning whether the country's food and drink industry could cope with independence.

Mr Mackie has sent a letter to 1500 members of the sector, expressing his "very serious concerns" and urging recipients to complete a survey so that a collective viewpoint can be reached.

In his letter, Mr Mackie says: "In an independent Scotland, our businesses will become foreign businesses in the eyes of 90% of our current potential UK customers. Does this worry you?

"Currently, Scotland trades annually circa £33bn worth of product, produce and services across the border, a very meaningful part of which is from our food and drink industry. The tremendous value of the Scottish brand will not be enhanced by making its owners unpopular in the rest of the UK market.

"It is inevitable that we will experience an increasing backlash to the Scottish independence hype, with buyers in England coming under pressure to choose more English produce to fill shelves."

But Andrew Fairlie replied: "This is a totally nonsensical and potentially damaging assault on a high-quality industry that is currently enjoying great success around the world. This is certainly not a time to be attacking the industry but a time to be talking it up."

Mr Fairlie, who is a member of the Yes Scotland advisory board and runs his restaurant at the Gleneagles Hotel, was speaking from Japan where he and a number of other leading chefs are on an educational tour.

He said: "Only today, while touring fish-markets here in Japan, we were staggered by the huge demand for Scottish marine-harvest salmon and shellfish. They simply cannot get enough of it and they are willing to pay small fortunes to make sure they get Scottish produce.

"Since the current Scottish Government came to power there have been tremendous efforts made to promote Scottish produce around the world and this is definitely paying dividends.

"Whatever constitutional arrangements are in place,now or in the future, to say that independence would have an adverse impact on the industry is absurd.

"Scottish produce, whether it be fish, beef, lamb or a whole range of other produce, is revered around the world and we should be doing everything we can to maintain that quality, not criticising it."

Elsewhere in his letter, Mr Mackie writes: "I have very serious concerns about the possibility of Scottish Independence, but particularly its implications for the Scottish food industry. I have therefore initiated this survey to learn how widely my concerns are shared within the Scottish food sector.

"If it had to, Scotland could no doubt find some sort of political place in the world as another small sovereign nation. But there is absolutely no certainty that full independence would deliver any economic advantage. Indeed I believe that it is far more likely that the huge costs of shouldering all (the colossal) statehood responsibilities would have a seriously negative economic effect. The only real certainty is that it would give our politicians a far bigger "ba tae play wi", something that I suspect is a principal reason we are being trailed down this road!"

He adds: "There are/must be some, but I have not yet found a business person supportive of full independence

for Scotland. There is, however, a very understandable unwillingness to go public. Following the courage of Boyd Tunnock, I have recently put my own head above the parapet delivering a strong pro-union message to several Chamber of Commerce and other business club meetings.

"We (Mackie's of Scotland) have received some "traitor, never buy your ice cream again" letters and emails, fortunately not many, and that also balanced with some comforting supportive comments, a particular of which is exhortation that more of the business community needs to stand up and be counted in the ensuing debate. This is my serious attempt to ascertain the views of Scotland's food and drink industry."