By Ian McConnell

AROUND 65 per cent of Scottish firms had by last week used the UK Government’s coronavirus job retention scheme amid the Covid-19 crisis, a survey has shown.

The survey, published today by Scottish Chambers of Commerce, highlights the importance to businesses of this scheme, which pays 80 per cent of the wages and salaries of furloughed workers up to £2,500 a month.

Scottish Chambers chief executive Liz Cameron said: “Recent moves to extend the popular furlough scheme were welcome but there are still concerns for businesses, particularly those in rural areas or those reliant on tourism, whether the extension is enough. There’s still the risk the scheme will run out before businesses have enough income to pay staff.”

READ MORE: Ian McConnell: Anyone seeing ‘addiction’ to furlough needs to take a look at reality of coronavirus crisis

Around 43% of Scottish firms are not confident their businesses will survive the coronavirus crisis if there are further prolonged lockdown periods and sustained social-distancing measures, the survey confirmed. It shows that around 52 per cent of Scottish businesses are confident they would survive under the same scenario.

Scottish Chambers says the proportion of companies fearing imminent collapse over the next two months, at 22%, represents a “small decrease in risk” from its previous survey published nearly three weeks ago. The business organisation believes this indicates government support is taking effect.

Of those surveyed, between May 6 and 14, around 87% cite lost income as their greatest concern if the economy does not begin to open up over the next two months.

READ MORE: Ian McConnell: UK mood music on EU is ever more troubling amid this coronavirus crisis

The survey shows 37% of firms have used the Scottish Government business support grant funds. And 24% have taken advantage of business rates relief.

Ms Cameron said: “Scottish businesses are bruised and it is still the case some are likely to fail. But those that are ready and able to get back to work are showing some signs of confidence they could make it through. What is clearly needed now is guidance, specific to sectors, on how to return to work in a way that is safe for employees, customers and the wider population.”

Around 58% of businesses said they would need a week or less to get back up and running under a partial or complete end of the lockdown.

READ MORE: Ian McConnell: Alternative to coronavirus furlough scheme does not bear thinking about as spectre of mass unemployment looms

And 69% of businesses say they need clear government guidance and support to help them come out of lockdown. Around half of firms highlighted a need for contingency plans for potential further lockdown.