SCOTTISH private-sector output plummeted at an “unparalleled rate” last month, as activity across the UK plunged amid the coronavirus pandemic, a survey published today by Royal Bank of Scotland shows.

And employment in Scotland’s private-sector economy dropped in April at the fastest pace on record, amid the lockdown put in place to slow the spread of Covid-19.

The purchasing managers’ index report from Royal Bank shows Scottish manufacturing and services output plummeted in April at by far the sharpest rates since comparable records began more than 22 years ago. The decline in services was even sharper than that in manufacturing.

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The seasonally adjusted business activity index for Scotland – a combined measure of manufacturing and services output – tumbled from an already-lowly 29.7 in March to a fresh record low of 10.7 in April, way below the 50 no-change mark. New business for companies also fell at a record pace, with domestic and overseas demand collapsing.

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Malcolm Buchanan, who chairs Royal Bank’s Scotland board, said: “The Covid-19 pandemic continued to cause severe repercussions for the Scottish economy in April, with latest data pointing to an unprecedented reduction in private-sector activity. Unsurprisingly, the 12-month outlook for activity remained negative for the second month in a row, amid substantial uncertainty surrounding the economic fall-out of the pandemic, although firms’ expectations did pick up slightly from March’s recent low.”