HOPES are pinned on the First Minister confirming a move to Phase 2 of the Scottish Government’s roadmap to opening our economy further this week.

The timing of this is critical for so many businesses. The collapse in GDP shows we are already in a recession and thousands of jobs are being destroyed, in addition to many that have been lost already.

This will be worsened if Scotland continues to lag behind in the recovery period. Furthermore, the continued lack of clear timelines in the roadmap makes it nearly impossible for companies to plan, invest and make decisions in the medium to long term, exacerbating the effects of loss of income and cashflow pressures.

Clear guidance, practical support and timelines will be critical in the weeks ahead if businesses are to restart operations and trade again. This is especially important if our businesses are to avoid competitive disadvantages with their counterparts to the south of the Border.

The emphasis on staying safe must continue, but this should be widened to include how measures put in place ensure it is safe to go out to live and work. The crisis has forced businesses to re-think how they conduct their operations and millions have been invested in adapting operations to ensure the health and safety of all.

We are on the right trajectory. Scottish businesses are renowned for their focus and implementation of some of the most rigorous health and safety standards in the world.

Ideally, we should adopt WHO guidance which suggests people in public should distance one metre apart rather than two metres, with protective equipment. The more widely adopted international standard of 1m could make all the difference to the survival of the hard-hit hospitality and tourism industry.

As more lockdown measures seem set to be eased by the Scottish Government on businesses, we have consulted with chamber members across Scotland who represent over 12,000 businesses that employ over half of Scotland’s workforce.

These businesses say they will continue to need specific focus and support and have called for the extension of policy levers to go further than they have ever done before.

The Advisory Group on Economic Recovery (AGER), chaired by Benny Higgins are understood to be considering a recommendation that the Scottish Government take equity stakes in critical industries and anchor businesses in local communities.

If adopted, these decisions should be made jointly between business and government. This would be in line with comparable economies such as the German Government taking a 20% stake of Lufthansa airlines to support its recovery.

As a matter of urgency, the Scottish and UK governments need to hit pause on every initiative or proposal such as the parking levy that will increase costs for business. In order to support business recovery, government at all levels also needs to change direction on planning and procurement processes to ensure businesses and investors are better enabled to kick start economic growth as quickly as possible.

A real focus on accelerating the dates when we can go back to work is now necessary. It may have already come too late to save all the jobs, but now we need specific focus on how the opening up of tourist businesses including the associated retail, cultural and food services businesses that go hand in hand with the sector, for example.

It is a shot we must take. We urge all politicians to listen to the local businesses who are at the heart of our communities. It is time to put the same laser focus that has rightly been on the health crisis, to the safety of jobs and our economy.

Liz Cameron is chief executive of Scottish Chambers of Commerce