It would be easy and not entirely inaccurate to cast attempts so far to control the Covid-19 pandemic in the terms of a zero-sum game in which any gains made by saving people from the virus have been offset by losses to other health ills, as well as the cost to the economy, civil liberties and our collective sanity. But zero-sum thinking dictates that total “gains” and “losses” must be equal, and in the battle against coronavirus, there’s a strong argument that the losses have pushed the resulting sum well into negative territory.

There has been another casualty along with the destruction of the economy, education and the general well-being, and that’s been the relationship between the business community and government, particularly in Scotland.

A series of private conversations with some of the country’s leading business figures reveals a consistent picture of frustration, lack of trust and poor communication that has deteriorated remarkably since the onset of the pandemic. As one person put it: “I trust my ex-wife more than I trust them, and I don’t trust my ex-wife much at all.”

No one disputes the fact that this is an incredibly difficult situation to which there are no easy answers. There is even a degree of sympathy – who, after all, would envy our political leaders in the current circumstances?

READ MORE: Time to stop acting like nothing else matters but Covid-19

But the internal debate right now within at least one major organisation has turned to whether the time has come to publicly call out the Government on what is seen as its refusal to engage on the economic front in this war against an invisible enemy.

In the generally staid world of leading business organisations, where phrases like “deeply disappointed” are about as rude as it gets, this is pretty much the equivalent of the nuclear option.

It risks getting messy by destroying personal relationships that have been cultivated over time. It is no one’s preferred choice, and goes a long way towards illustrating the depth of discontent as we head into what looks to be a very grim winter.

Whatever his personal shortcomings, Derek Mackay was mentioned more than once as having been the sole senior Scottish Cabinet official who understood the challenges facing the business community, and its role in delivering a more prosperous society. Though understandable, his hasty departure from the top table just weeks before the pandemic took hold appears to have severed what was already a tenuous meeting of the political and business mindsets.

Among those who have taken over in his stead, Kate Forbes is seen as something of an unknown quantity. There are questions about the extent of expertise that she and Fiona Hyslop have brought to their respective briefs. As for the First Minister, some say she has always been suspicious of the motivations of the business community, while others cite what are described as direct and in some cases warm relations.

READ MORE: Haughey takes aim at government ministers over hospitality closure stance

But regardless of the starting point, there has been severe erosion during the pandemic to the point of what has been described as “engagement without consultation”.

Take, for example, the weekly briefings now being held every Wednesday morning by the Government with the “Big Six” of Scotland’s business groups: the CBI, the IoD, the Federation of Small Businesses, the SCDI, the Chambers of Commerce and Scottish Financial Enterprise.

The aim is to share information that will give these groups a heads-up on forthcoming changes to Covid-19 regulations that will impact business, allowing them to inform and assist their members. Yet just hours before the First Minister announced on October 7 tough new rules coming into play across central Scotland, it is said there was not a hint as to what was coming. As one regular participant describes it, there’s more to be learned from reading the morning newspapers than from sitting in on those briefings.

Another senior business figure points to the March meeting of the Government’s Council of Economic Advisers (CEA). Minutes from that gathering show the First Minister participated in only a small opening part of that two-day meeting in Edinburgh, providing a budget update before then leaving for parliament, though Ms Hyslop was “soon” to join the meeting.

READ MORE: Ministers need to up their game on communications front

What some take from this is that while the Scottish Government will speak to the business community, there is far less inclination to listen: “Her [the First Minister’s] actions tell me she is not that interested”.

Even if it’s simply a question of optics, these kinds of perceptions make the task of uniting to overcome formidable challenges even more difficult than need be. As no one person or group will have all the answers to the coronavirus crisis, business leaders argue that all input is required to come up with effective solutions.

They point to the UK Government’s furlough scheme as a prime example, with a wide range of groups working furiously behind the scenes with civil servants to rapidly roll out a programme that staved off an immediate and crippling surge in unemployment.

Among various suggestions on how to deal with the current situation is a growing belief that Scotland’s “route map” is no longer fit for purpose. It was originally predicated on the assumption that the virus could be suppressed in Scotland, which has now proven to be wishful thinking. What’s required in its place is a robust “winter survival” plan.

READ MORE: Greywalls Hotel owner Dominic Hoar backs Scottish Government ‘circuit-breaker’ measures for hospitality sector

One area where Ms Forbes does receive credit is for her part in bringing forward the Logan Review, which was released in September to near-universal acclaim. Headed by former Skyscanner executive Mark Logan, its clear list of actions on how the technology sector can contribute to a post-pandemic economic recovery sits in stark contrast to the Higgins Review.

In a similar vein, there is a strong desire for the Government to shift the advisory focus away from academics and retired bankers in favour of “job creators” such as Mr Logan.

The fractured relationship between business and Government in Scotland has long been an open secret – what’s alarming is that Covid-19 has created capacity for the cracks to widen into gaping chasms. If the new “three-tier” system coming into force when current restrictions expire on October 26 is applied without proper consultation and sound justification, that could prove the trigger for a far more public push by the business community for a meaningful role in pandemic battle planning.