Louis Walsh believes X Factor contestants such as Scott James, who has Asperger syndrome, may not be able to cope, but says it must be their choice whether to take part.

Scott, 21, who will appear on TV screens in the new series of The X Factor, told judges he did not leave home for seven years because of his condition.

Asked by the Radio Times if someone like Scott can take the strain of appearing on the ITV1 show, Louis said: “I don’t think they can, if I’m honest – people don’t realise the pressure that these acts are under, especially when they’re competing with everybody else backstage.

“It’s a very difficult show to do, even as a judge. It’s very gruelling, and it’s 10 weeks of very intense performance. Everything you say and do is being watched. It’s like Big Brother meets Jerry Springer.”

Asked if it was fair on Scott, from Stockton-on-Tees, to allow him to appear, Louis told the magazine: “Nobody forces anybody to go to an audition… I think it has to be his choice.”

Asked if Scott knew what he was letting himself in for, Louis said: “Initially, no,” adding: “I think it’s a massive reality check for some people.”

Despite not appearing on TV yet, Scott has already been tipped as a singing sensation to rival Susan Boyle, who went through a much-publicised breakdown after coming second on Britain’s Got Talent.

On the new series of The X Factor – which starts on Saturday – Scott wowed judges with a rendition of You Raise Me Up, and is said to have made it through to the boot camp stage, which involves just 50 contestants.