THE message finally broke through to the public last week that our city centres are on the brink of serious and sustained economic damage. Thousands of jobs are at risk because commuters, shoppers and tourists simply are not there in the numbers needed to keep staff in shops, cinemas, hotels, bars and restaurants employed.

The state of play in Glasgow’s city centre is sadly no different from others. The facts are stark.

According to UK think tank the Centre for Cities, Glasgow sits alongside Edinburgh, Manchester and London in the bottom 10 amongst the 60 largest UK towns and cities for post crisis recovery in footfall. Only 60% of the activity in February, the last unaffected month before the lockdown, has been restored and February is hardly renowned as a lively month.

City centre shops are reporting around 50% of their year on year trade levels. Night-time businesses have recovered just under 50% compared to February and that is with the Chancellor’s Eat Out to Help Out campaign fully operating. Subway passenger traffic is over two-thirds below its normal August activity. Hotel bookings for September through to November are tracking at around 10% of capacity.

A Morgan Stanley report last week suggested just over 30% of UK office workers are back, significantly lagging European counterparts such as France (83%), Germany (70%) and Italy (76%). In Glasgow that figure is only 15%.

Yet another spat broke out between our two governments, this time on the appropriate policies for teasing those staff back to their desks, with an expanding gulf in attitudes on display again.

Boris Johnson is erring in favour of faster re-opening of the economy, cajoling both employers and their teams to get back to the workplace. His government has chosen to attempt to get the economy moving fast enough to avoid extensions of existing business support measures into the winter.

The Scottish Government hasn’t set a date for the re-opening of ‘non-essential’ offices. The announcement last week of joint work with the Scottish Chambers of Commerce to establish a plan for re-opening is welcome but also rather confirmed that there had been no serious attempt to consider the option before. The impression keeps on growing that the economy remains a second-tier priority.

Neither government is getting the balance right. It looks increasingly unlikely that city centre businesses will be ready for the closure of the Job Retention Scheme at the end of October, so the Chancellor must look again at further measures to help.

Continuation of a more targeted but expanded version of Eat Out to Help Out, perhaps looking again at a voucher scheme for eligible city centre shops as well as cafes, bars and restaurants would be one route. The extension of the JRS for highly exposed sectors would be another.

But the Scottish Government also has to overcome its reluctance to put the opening up of more normal business activity nearer the top of its list. Would Glasgow or Edinburgh be at the bottom of the Centre for Cities list if ‘non-essential’ offices had been cleared to operate?

The larger the city the more challenging it has been to get staff back, but we haven’t had the chance to find out.

Glasgow Chamber of Commerce has been asking for a task force to look at all the measures available to bring our city centres back to life, and a locally led task force looks to be imminent.

It would be good to see representation from both our governments on that task force, working collaboratively to save thousands of Glasgow workers from an even more miserable winter.

Stuart Patrick is chief executive of Glasgow Chamber of Commerce