Potential fracking activity in Scotland could damage the whisky industry, which supports more than 10,500 Scottish jobs, according to campaigners.

The Scottish Government is considering whether to allow fracking for shale gas, with the central belt earmarked by industry as a target for development.

The activity could then be rolled out in other areas of Scotland after public consultation is concluded on May 31.

Campaigners 38 Degrees say it could result in waterways, soil and air becoming polluted and having a detrimental effect on the national drink.

Professor Andrew Watterson, of the centre for public health and population health research at the University of Stirling, said: "The German beer industry has long expressed major concerns that the potential for water contamination from fracking for gas posed a significant risk to their industry.

"The US Environment Protection Agency has also recently acknowledged there are currently no guarantees fracking may not lead to water pollution by toxic chemicals used in the process."

The Scotch Whisky Association says distillers "need pristine water supplies to make whisky".

Fracking has the potential to release harmful and polluting chemicals into Scottish waterways, which are essential for whisky production.

Whisky expert Charles MacLean said: "Water is one of three ingredients used to make whisky, and the purity of Scotland's water is a fundamental part of the Scotch whisky brand.

"Even the potential of water contamination from fracking in Scotland would be a seriously worrying development for the whisky industry and Scotland's economy."

The spirit represents 30% of Scottish exports and is worth £5 billion per year to the UK economy while the industry employs about 10,500 people in Scotland and pays £1.3 billion in Scottish salaries each year.

Campaigners say this compares to about £50 million per year which would be generated by fracking and an estimated 1,400 Scottish jobs which they say would be for a limited period.

Stewart Kirkpatrick, head of 38 Degrees in Scotland, said: "Whisky is one of the pillars of the Scottish economy. Our reputation for clean water is key to its image around the world.

"The potential risks that fracking poses to our water and our whisky far outweigh any economic benefits it might bring, so why on earth would we swap a strong and secure whisky industry for the potential hazards of fracking?

"The Scottish Government are currently in a period of consultation on whether to get rid of fracking. Let's stop it in its tracks and make sure it can't damage our economy."

Julie Hesketh-Laird, acting chief executive of the Scotch Whisky Association, said: "The Scotch whisky industry will monitor any developments in hydraulic fracturing activity, or fracking, in Scotland and any potential issues or benefits.

"Business sustainability, including a secure and balanced mix of energy supply options and the impact on the environment - notably water supplies - will be key elements in ensuring that people buying Scotch whisky receive a consistently high-quality product."

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: "No hydraulic fracturing, or 'fracking', can take place in Scotland as a result of the moratorium on unconventional oil and gas extraction which the Scottish Government has already put in place.

"The Scottish Government is maintaining a cautious and evidence-led approach. As part of that, we have published key research reports on the potential impacts of unconventional oil and gas, including environmental and community impacts.

"A full public consultation on unconventional oil and gas, including fracking, is under way and will conclude at the end of May.

"No decision on the future of unconventional oil and gas will be made before the people of Scotland have had an opportunity to give their views and these have been analysed, and, as Scottish ministers have made clear, the Scottish Parliament will have the opportunity to vote on the matter before the end of 2017."