The year has got off to a flying start and there’s now been enough time for significant events affecting the prospects of businesses in Scotland to come into view. There will be the Scottish budget, then the UK budget and yet another deadline on our trading relationship with the European Union by the end of the year in what will likely feel like no time at all.

For many, the 31st of January when the bell tolls for the UK’s departure from the European Union will be bittersweet. But what the sound actually signals, is the start of the transition period and the countdown to when the UK actually parts ways.

Of course, businesses in Scotland all have differing views and requirements when it comes to future trading arrangements, but we are agreed that these need clarified and quickly. This year, we expect that whatever the shape of the trading arrangements with the EU are, the government must make provision for companies to adapt.

Then there’s the Scottish budget which presents challenges for our finance minister Derek Mackay, as he will have to set out his stall without the benefit of knowing what is in the UK budget in March. It also brings with it additional complexity, as the Scottish Government takes on more tax and spending responsibilities as a result of devolved powers.

There is a risk that the budget creates uncertainty and a widening tax spread between Scotland and the UK. There are also concerns for businesses on transport infrastructure and proposed changes to local government business taxes.

The Scottish Chambers of Commerce have asked that the policy promise of upgrading the A9, and the A96 is fulfilled. These developments are not a luxury but a necessity. We have urged the Government to reject calls to reverse the plans. The A9 is Scotland’s longest trunk road and gateway to the Highlands. The A96 is a key transport corridor essential for Scottish exports. These must be taken forward to ensure the future of rural communities and their economies.

The argument against carrying on with the upgrades are led by those looking to deliver Scotland’s net zero carbon economy. SCC Network fully supports the need for policies that address the climate emergency. However, we need balance in these efforts. These should not be at the expense of our business communities or to the detriment of key drivers of the Scottish economy.

We have also called for greater discussion on proposed changes to the Non-Domestic Rates (Scotland) Bill. Areas of concern include plans to hand control of business rates Scotland’s 32 local authorities and the risk this creates to reliefs such as the Small Business Bonus Scheme and the Business Growth Accelerator. We are committed to working with all levels of government to deliver business taxes based on principles of responsiveness, fairness, certainty and consistency.

The stakes could not be greater. As the Scottish Chambers of Commerce’ most recent Quarterly Economic Indicator has pointed out, businesses will need as much support as governments in Scotland and London can muster.

In the last quarter of 2019, the survey documents that business confidence continues to be on a long wane. Manufacturers reported an improvement in export sales but at a level still low compared to previous periods. Retailers reported that the festive period failed to deliver good cheer as discounting cut margins and the price of raw materials rose again. Wages are still rising for both for tourism businesses and the key financial sector.

Nevertheless, businesses are prepared to step up to the challenges the coming months and years will bring. Because it is business who will deliver the fair and sustainable economy that benefits us all.

Liz Cameron is chief executive of Scottish Chambers of Commerce.