The number of profit warnings issued by Scottish listed businesses reached a record level in the first three months of 2020.

EY said in its latest Profit Warnings report it was the highest seen in any previous quarter in the last 20 years.

Ten profit warnings were recorded by EY between January 1 and March 31 2020 in Scotland, which is a 43 per cent year-on-year increase on the same quarter of last year, when there were seven such warnings.

The country faired comparatively better than other UK locations as warnings soared. There were 301 profit warnings recorded for the quarter almost equal to the entire number issued in the whole of 2019 - 313 - and 5% higher than the total for 2018 of 287.

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Compared to the same period last year, warnings rose from 89, representing a 238% year-on-year increase.

Over a fifth of the UK’s quoted companies issued a profit warning the first quarter, EY said, which was more than the percentage of companies warning in the whole of 2008, when it was 17%.

The hike was attributed to the Covid-19 crisis, which has temporarily hit production at many businesses, with very few sectors immune from its effects.

Although 77% of profit warnings blamed Covid-19 in the first quarter of 2020, EY said it is worth noting that some companies were struggling before the pandemic. In January 2020, warnings had increased by 43% year-on-year, when compared to the same month last year.

Colin Dempster, of EY, said that “Covid-19 has intensified the pressures businesses were already experiencing as a result of political uncertainties and rapid structural changes, which contributed towards UK profit warnings reaching a ten-year high in 2019”, adding: “Scottish businesses have proved to be relatively resilient so far.”

By percentage of companies warning, FTSE travel & leisure was the most dramatically affected, with 70% of the sector issuing a profit warning, followed by industrial materials (63%) and retailers (61%).