In these extraordinary and unsettling times, you need to keep reminding yourself that this isn’t going to last forever.

But when the lockdown is lifted and when we emerge, blinking into the sunlight, what sort of landscape are we going to observe?

Colin Borland

Well, we are heading for a recession. That much seems pretty obvious.

But there’s hope, expressed not least in the Fraser of Allander Institute’s latest Economic Commentary, that, with concerted efforts of the public and private sectors, it could be “v-shaped”. In other words, as Institute Director Professor Graeme Roy, puts it: “On balance, and assuming that the public health emergency will pass in the coming months, the economy should come out the other side with only a limited hit to its long-term productive capacity.”

To make that happen, though, we need to protect as much of our economic infrastructure as we can.

The efforts to prevent Coronavirus overwhelming us have been something to behold. The scale and speed of the state intervention in the economy and our private lives is unlike anything we’ve ever seen in peacetime Britain. And while public health has, absolutely correctly, been the chief priority, it is also right to acknowledge that doing irreparable damage to the economy could ultimately prove disastrous for our society.

That is why we have pushed so hard for the government support secured so far to focus on keeping as much economic capacity in place as possible, even if economic activity itself is largely on hold.

This, however, is a lot easier said than done.

Lots of small businesses do not run with large cash reserves. Those in the sectors hardest and most visibly hit – such as tourism, hospitality and retail – were already enduring particularly tough times. So any business interruption, even if temporary, is a serious issue.

Time, therefore, is of the essence – getting help to where it’s needed before otherwise perfectly sound businesses go bust. This, in turn, means that laser-like accuracy of any intervention will be sacrificed in the interests of speed. It also follows that there will be rough edges that need rubbed off when the details emerge. And there will be gaps.

It is, of course, the job of FSB to make sure measures like the loans, grants, employee furlough scheme, help for those in particularly hard-hit sectors – not to mention the self-employed support for which FSB argued hard – actually do what was intended. And, if their real-world application is found wanting, we need to put forward refinements.

The current initial intense push is all about getting as many businesses as possible to a state where they can sit mothballed until it is safe and possible to resume trading. Once we get to that stage, though, we need to think about the journey back.

While some businesses will be able to pick up the threads pretty quickly and continue where they left off, others will take longer to build up a head of steam. Some might find that customers or markets have shifted. How long, for example, might it be before we are welcoming back international tourists? Some of the changes in our behaviour – like home or remote working – might become a more permanent feature and hence make certain business models less viable, while creating opportunities elsewhere.

As far as anything can be predicted at the moment, however, agility will be the key in getting back up to full speed. And that’s where small businesses can and will excel.

We just need to give them the backing to make it to that point.

Colin Borland is director of devolved nations at the Federation of Small Businesses.