SCOTLAND is suffering a shortage of up to 48,000 hospitality workers as a result of the impact of Covid and new immigration rules following Brexit, according to an industry body.

Vacancy rates in the sector are at least 10% and could be as high as 16%, according to UKHospitality Scotland.

In written evidence to the House of Commons Scottish Affairs Committee, the trade association said this equates to between 30,000 – 48,000 vacancies.

READ MORE: Ex-UK civil servant says Brexit led to 'culture of lying and corruption'

Last month the Sunday National reported how some hotels in the Highlands were closing early after the tourist season due to a lack of staff, with warnings next summer could be worse if the effects of Brexit are not mitigated.

More than eight out of 10 businesses – 84% – have reported vacancies in front-of-house roles such as bar, reception and waiting staff, according to UKHospitality Scotland.

Just over two-thirds had vacancies for chefs, while around a third reported shortages of kitchen porters, assistant managers and housekeepers.

The National: Chef in hotel or restaurant kitchen cooking, only hands. He is working on the micro herb decoration. Preparing tomato soup..

The briefing paper said there were several reasons why the pandemic is containing to drive labour shortages, including overseas workers leaving the country.

“The panic caused by the pandemic had an understandable effect on those from overseas who wanted to spend time closer to their families,” it said.

“While numbers are hard to come by, there is strong anecdotal evidence that many workers left Scotland and the rest of the UK, supported by furlough payments.

READ MORE: Believe in Scotland urge Scots to join this week's independence action

“There has been a delay in those people returning – and many are expected not to return.”

UKHospitality Scotland said a lack of confidence in the stability of the sector is also contributing to the worker shortage situation. They fear moving into, or staying in, the sector in case of further lockdowns – and potentially without the safety net of furlough,” the submission said.

The paper also says the new immigration regime which came into effect post-Brexit are also impacting on the sector, with many roles in hospitality “unfairly” classified in a way which means immigration cannot fill them.

“Whilst the sector is keen to develop its domestic workforce, Scotland’s demographics, coupled with the geographic spread of our population creates problems in achieving this,” it said.

READ MORE: UK's indyref architect says Scots face choice of indy or 'muscular Unionism'

“Even in cities and more populous areas of the country, developing a workforce is challenging given the clear labour shortages across the economy.”

UKHospitality Scotland added: “We continue to share our governments’ ambitions to abolish low pay but feel that the disruption does need intervention.

“Short-term visas for the hospitality sector could provide a solution that allows a transition in the sector, without affecting existing wage or immigration levels.”

The evidence was submitted before the hospitality sector was dealt another “heavy blow” from Covid last week, with official advice urging people to postpone Christmas parties due to the emergence of the Omicron variant triggering a surge in cancellations.