THE return of the television series Outlander to our screens yesterday is set to bring a further boost to the Scottish economy.

The third series based on the novels of Diana Gabaldon began its run on Amazon Prime last night and is expected to attract even more tourists to Scotland than the first two, originally also broadcast on Amazon Prime but currently showing on More4.

“Outlander has already had a massive impact on Scottish tourism, with thousands of fans flocking to historic sites all over the country,” VisitScotland chief executive Malcolm Roughead said.

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“With the launch of series three on Amazon Prime and the first two seasons now being shown on More4, we fully expect the phenomenon to grow.

“Screen tourism is hugely important for the Scottish economy and, year-on-year, we see more and more set-jetters coming to the country to immerse themselves in our stunning, real-life movie backdrops.

“The Outlander effect is in full flow and, as with Braveheart, Skyfall or the Da Vinci Code, we expect it to inspire visitors to come here for many years to come.”

Roughead has already hailed Outlander as the ‘‘new Braveheart’’ due to its ability to persuade tourists to visit sites featured in the series.

The series follows the adventures of Claire Randall (played by Caitriona Balfe), a nurse who travels back in time to the Highlands of the 18th century and marries the dashing Jamie Fraser (Sam Heughan). Last night’s episode featured a stunning recreation of the Battle of Culloden, filmed in Prestonpans.

Edinburgh and Glasgow locations feature prominently in the coming episodes.

According to More4, Outlander’s first series is the channel’s biggest show of the year so far, currently attracting an average of 661k viewers per episode – more than double More4’s slot average.

The launch episode drew one million viewers making it More4’s biggest-ever new series launch and the channel’s highest rating programme in over four years.

The Glasgow-based textiles firm Ingles Buchan, costume-maker for the Outlander series and supplier of merchandise, said it had seen an upturn since the series had started on More4 and expected this could grow.

“Orders have been steady the whole way through but in the last couple of months there has been an increase in volume,” said Colin Brown of Ingles Buchan.

He said the potential was there for even more sales as more people become hooked on the series. “It’s not just ourselves benefiting, but the wider industry,” he said. “There are more tours going round the sites in the series and it is helping accom- modation providers and restaurants too. It’s creating a lot of interest in Scotland and adding to people’s awareness of what we have here.”

Outlander tour operator Catriona Stevenson said she has had an increase in visitors from England and Wales since the series launched on More 4 and predicts interest will increase further as it continues.

She said that with the third series now launching on Amazon Prime, the tourist industry would get an even bigger boost.

Stevenson, director of Slainte Scotland, also believes that if more Scots start watching Outlander, could be a sea change in the way independence is viewed.

“I think it has the potential to make more people vote Yes,” she said.

A long wait for Outlander to find a British broadcaster led to speculation of political interference in the run-up to the Scottish independence referendum in 2014.

Leaked emails published by WikiLeaks in 2015 showed that then prime minister David Cameron met Sony repres-entatives 10 weeks before the vote to discuss the release date of the show.

An email sent from Sony vice-president Keith Weaver to chief executive Michael Lynton and other senior Sony figures, said the meeting would discuss ‘overall investment in the UK’.

The email states “From a SPE [Sony Pictures Entertainment] perspective, your meeting with Prime Minister Cameron on Monday will likely focus on our overall investment in the UK – with special emphasis on ... the importance of Outlander (ie partic-ularly vis-a-vis the political issues in the UK as Scotland contemplates detachment this fall).”

Stevenson said: “The rhetoric during the referendum was all about our shared history and national identity but Scotland has been the poor brother for a very long time and that is well illustrated in Outlander.

“The third series shows Culloden when Scotland had its own identity, but the aftermath of the battle saw the decimation of Celtic culture and the identity of Scotland started to become more Anglified.”

Stevenson added: “I would hope that people would not change their opinion [on independence] just because of what they saw on a TV show but I think it might make them more open to our history and more interested in finding out what really happened. If they do read more about our history then they probably will change their minds and vote Yes.

“What Outlander has illustrated to me is that these lies have been told to us for centuries and they have not changed.”

Key Outlander locations include Doune Castle in Perthshire, which stands in for the fictional Castle Leoch, Culross in Fife, which feat-ures as the village of Cranesmuir, and Rannoch, where Claire time travels through the fictional Craigh na Dun stone circle.