One of the better moves the Scottish Government has made of late is the introduction of its five Covid Protection Levels.

It will be cold comfort to those who have been forced to close, but the idea is to let the authorities be nimble – taking action to damp down hotspots, while freeing up those areas where the risks are lower. It also gives businesses at least the possibility of seeing further up the road ahead, allowing them to plan better.

This made it all the more frustrating that, before the system had even come into effect last Monday, there was talk of replacing it with an England-style national lockdown or moving swathes of us into the most severe Level 4.

That would have been absolutely the wrong sort of levelling-up agenda.

It would have discounted the progress made in various parts of the country since the last round of restrictions on sectors like hospitality came into force. And it would have undermined the Scottish Government’s, hard-won and well-deserved, reputation for being led by the medical science.

As we enter the crucial pre-Christmas trading period in earnest, there is real concern about tighter restrictions choking off any chance of retailers and others salvaging something of their year.

So, it will be with a degree of trepidation that we tune in later today to hear what the First Minister says when she announces the first of her weekly reviews of who’s in which level.

Thankfully, the Chancellor’s announcement last Thursday that furlough is set to be extended until the end of March makes a hasty mass-escalation to Level 4 less likely.

Business support packages need to be designed to match trading restrictions – not the other way around. And, while I can’t believe that Scottish ministers were ever seriously considering changing the restrictions just because some new funding was available, Thursday’s announcement means they have the space to tailor the rules to local conditions.

I would, though, caution anyone against falling into the trap of viewing furlough as some sort of magic wand that lets us shut down swathes of the economy with no adverse impact on businesses, our communities or families. Closures, travel bans and other restrictions are never consequence-free.

There’s no question furlough has been a lifeline for many employers, their staff and families. But staff wages are not the only overhead for which businesses, many with zero turnover, need to find the money. There’s rent, utilities and all sorts of other bills. After eight very rough months, many have exhausted reserves. Some are running on fumes.

And no amount of furlough payments are going to save your job if your employer goes bust.

That’s why it’s crucial that government support focuses on getting businesses through these next few months – and that means easing cashflow.

We need to ensure businesses have access to the sort of emergency loan funds we saw launched earlier in the year. The Chancellor has extended bounce back loan application deadlines and allowed for top-ups, but too many are still struggling to make applications as lenders keep their doors closed to new customers.

It’s good that the government has renewed its support for the bulk of the self-employed – although help for those who have slipped through the gaps is needed now more than ever.

The deft and proportionate application of the new levels, coupled with the knowledge that support is going to be there if it’s needed, could give businesses, at last, a medium term route-map to survival and re-opening. And give ministers the tools to make the right choices for our economy.

Colin Borland is Director of Devolved Nations for the Federation of Small Businesses