Times have never been so tough, at least not in our lifetimes. But for businesses in Scotland, it’s not all doom and gloom. For every grim statistic and tragic business failure there are examples of challenges overcome, innovation adopted, not to mention sheer grit and determination shown in the face of adversity.

A recent example of this was the virtual trade mission to Ulaanbaatar lead by West Lothian Chamber of Commerce in association with the Honorary Consul of Mongolia for Scotland. It was way over subscribed with more than 100 businesses taking part. It was one of a number of such trade missions that have forged ahead in the past year through Chambers despite travel restrictions, with many more to come.

These B2B trade missions are a key plank of SCC and Scottish Government’s important International Trade Partnership programme. They also demonstrate Scotland’s collective will to grow trade in international markets, and their hunger to diversify and identify opportunities. Scotland invented the modern world and now, in SCC’s “Year of Trade”, we will not only recover, but grow.

Recently Scotland’s Trade, Investment and Innovation Minister, Ivan McKee, spoke to a virtual meeting of chamber business leaders to highlight trade-boosting strategies which are due to be finalised shortly. Plans will include growing the currently underused Global Scot network and working with our International Chambers across the world. He also pledged to grapple with issues around export credit insurances.

SCC has welcomed his proposals on green/freeports. If Government listens carefully to what business needs around this model, what an opportunity they will be. We urge all of parliament to get behind this. Yes, it’s an election year but business needs all of parliament pulling in the same direction – we need every tool in our armoury to succeed.

Later this week, Cabinet Secretary for Finance Kate Forbes will unveil the Scottish Budget. She too also spoke to us recently to highlight some of the approaches her office will take to provide certainty and reassurance to business in 2021 amidst ongoing lockdown restrictions. A range of issues were raised on the call, including the patchwork of existing business support and the need to extend it; the unfit and unfair rates model and rates reliefs – yes please, but again a short-term plug in a hole; aviation sector recovery; the need to address the recovery of city centres; digital and infrastructure investment; climate action, third sector support and more. The new US President Joe Biden has his challenges – but so does Scotland.

What we absolutely need is a managed recovery plan – driven by business need – both at Holyrood and Westminster. I make no apologies – it is businesses of all sizes and from all geographical areas which are the only ones who create our jobs, contribute taxes from our employees and companies, and which fund all our much-valued public realm.

The vaccine must be rolled out and timelines for reopening firmed. For every closure of a business or cancellation of a service to prevent the spread of the virus there is huge frustration. This is why it is so important that governments and their scientific advisers are clear on how and where the virus is transmitted and how this guides the strategy on both imposing – and easing – restrictions.

We are facing our darkest hour yet ahead of a recovery that should come with the vaccination programme alongside this necessary recovery plan. For this to happen, we need governments to work with us and to listen carefully to what we are saying. Businesses need clarity of actions and urgency, so they are primed and ready to come out strongly, with the confidence to invest and create jobs and prosperity for all.

Liz Cameron is chief executive of Scottish Chambers of Commerce