SCOTLAND’S booming tourism industry is fuelling an unproductive, low-wage economy, the head of an advisory body has said.

Professor Alan Manning, chair of the Migration Advisory Committee, said the hospitality industry had been good at creating lots of jobs – but few were of a high quality.

He said: “Every extra job that’s in the hospitality industry, on average, makes the UK a lower wage, lower productivity economy."

Critics accused him of being “arrogant and dismissive” towards a sector worth £11 billion to Scotland.

The MAC, an independent public body that advises UK ministers, previously recommended a post-Brexit immigration policy focused on high-skilled workers with salaries of at least £30,000 a year.

However Scotland’s hotels and restaurants warned this could lead to “crippling” staff shortages. Bosses said restricting workers from the EU would even drive some firms out of business.

Mr Manning, who is a professor of labour economics at the London School of Economics, insisted it is important hospitality competes for labour on the same basis as other sectors, and suggested its growth should be restricted.

Speaking to Holyrood’s tourism committee, he argued most EU migration had been in lower-skilled jobs since 2004.

He said: “Many of the jobs in hospitality would not be eligible under our proposals.

“The hospitality sector has been fantastic in creating lots of jobs, and quantity of jobs, but it’s not been very good at creating quality jobs – 95 per cent of jobs in hospitality pay below average earnings.”

He added: “If we want to move towards a high wage, high productivity economy, hospitality as it runs at the moment – which pays really rather low wages – is not obviously a sector that you want to encourage in terms of growth.

“What our view is, is that since 2004 they found it rather easy to grow. Our proposal is that growth should not be so easy in the future. It’s about restricting growth, not sort of getting rid of what there is already.”

Mr Manning continued: “If you talk about what the sectors are that we want to grow as a share of employment in the UK, you would not be focusing on hospitality as one of those sectors."

He said it was “not obvious” migration had contributed to making Scotland a high wage, high productivity economy.

And he argued the hospitality industry needed “a little bit of pressure” to boost its productivity and provide better paid jobs. Making migration harder would be “an appropriate nudge” to go down that route, he said.

Kate Nicholls, chief executive of UK Hospitality, said it was “utterly incredible” to hear Mr Manning belittle the jobs of those who work in the sector.

She said: “Mr Manning’s comments on the quality of jobs in the hospitality sector are arrogant and dismissive of the great work we do.

“The sector is incredibly dynamic and vibrant. We provide jobs in every region in Scotland and across the UK create £130 billion in economic activity and pay £39 billion in tax.”

She said Mr Manning is “is very welcome to contact us directly, so we can arrange for him to work a shift in a hospitality business, so he can experience first-hand the brilliant work that goes on in our vibrant sector”.

Scottish Liberal Democrat MSP Tavish Scott said it was a “bizarre suggestion that restricting immigration would do anything other than devastate firms and hotels across the country”.

Meanwhile, SNP MSP Stuart McMillan said Mr Manning’s evidence to the committee “personifies the Tories’ view that they can do whatever they want to Scotland in order to placate the hard-line Brexiteers who hold their government to ransom”.

A VisitScotland spokesman said: “Tourism is more than a holiday experience but the heartbeat of the Scottish economy.

“Worth £11 billion to Scotland, it touches every community, generating income, jobs and social change.

“With more than 25,000 EU national workers – around 16% of employees – in the sector, they are a vital part of the tourism industry and their contribution should be celebrated rather than discouraged.”