AN SNP MSP has accused Scotland’s hospitality sector of “crying wolf” - after business leaders told MSPs that extending the vaccine passport scheme would be “nothing short of devastating”.

Holyrood’s Covid Recovery Committee heard that if the policy is further extended, “significant” amount of funding will be required otherwise “a very substantial proportion of businesses will not survive the winter”.

Nicola Sturgeon will announce on Tuesday whether the vaccine passport scheme, which requires proof of double vaccination or exemption to enter nightclubs and large gatherings, will be extended to other parts of the hospitality sector.

Any changes would come into force on December 6.

Gavin Stevenson from the Scottish Licensed Trade Association said that extending the scheme would be “little short of devastating for a substantial proportion of businesses”.

He added that those already subject to the vaccine passport scheme are “typically” seeing a drop in turnover of between 20 per cent and 40%.

Mr Stevenson said: “There’s a direct correlation there between the implementation of vaccine passports and a substantial and unsustainable decrease in trade.

“Any proposed extension of the scheme is deeply unwelcome for the sector and, of course, this is not particular to just Scotland, we have now got data from Wales – a survey this week showing there’s been a substantial decrease in trade in the Welsh sector.”

He added: “If the Scottish Government is determined to proceed with the rollout of the scheme, it would be absolutely essential to have significant financial support go in place – otherwise a very substantial proportion of businesses will not survive this winter.”

Leon Thompson from UK Hospitality said the proposed extension of vaccine passports has “caused widespread alarm across hospitality businesses”.

He added that staffing is “a big concern for our sector” and that checking vaccine passports as people enter venues would be “a major challenge”.

Mr Thompson added: “The timing of all of this is very difficult. “Hospitality businesses are getting ready for what they hope will be a busy Christmas season.”

He said that if the extension of the scheme does begin on December 6, as anticipated, “that has a potential to be pretty disastrous for business”.

But SNP SMP John Mason accused the hospitality sector of “exaggerating” the problems facing the industry and said they had been “crying wolf”.

He said: “Do you not think you have slightly over-stated your case and a certain amount of crying wolf? “People are not taking you seriously because you use such strong language like ‘devastating’.

“I have tried to get into a restaurant in Edinburgh on a Wednesday night and it was absolutely full. I’ve gone into a pub on a Wednesday night in Edinburgh – couldn’t find a seat. (In) Glasgow last Friday night, I was in a restaurant – absolutely full.

“Parts of the hospitality and licensed trade sector seem to be doing absolutely fine.

“I just wonder, do you not think you are somewhat exaggerating it?” Mr Stevenson said that all the venues Mr Mason had mentioned are not currently subject to vaccine passports – adding that they would lose trade if the scheme is extended.