The continued delay to office re-opening is having consequences on businesses and their employees alike, not only for those workers and businesses affected who desperately want and need clarity on when they can return to their places of work in a meaningful way, but also for those city centre businesses which rely on office workers’ footfall to survive.

We have been providing real-time feedback to the Scottish Government to support the safe re-opening of offices and the phased return of employees as soon as possible. However, we have significant concerns that guidance as it stands lacks the clarity that many businesses are seeking to allow staff back into the workplace even as restrictions are anticipated to reach level zero later this month, pending updates from the Scottish and UK Governments.

This lack of direction and plan for the return of office-based businesses in the longer term will only delay Scotland’s economic recovery and delay our ability to look past the end of June and beyond level zero.

Without an end-date to level zero, the implication is that business will continue to live with this uncertainty and some level of restrictions indefinitely. Businesses cannot afford a false start when it comes to re-opening. Ambiguity over lockdown extensions and end dates makes it harder for businesses to plan and to build back their client and customer base.

Home working has acted as an important mechanism to reduce the spread of the virus, but after 15 months of lockdowns, supporting and prioritising the mental health of employees has never been more important, and allowing a return to office-based working is an important stepping stone towards normality.

Those businesses who have faced restrictions for the longest time, those hit hardest by physical distancing and working from home regulations, feel neglected and simply want details on why some sectors of our economy remain closed entirely or facing restrictions for longer than may be necessary.

We have recently written to the First Minister to stress that this situation cannot continue for the office-based businesses that urgently need clear and supportive guidance to enable them to reopen efficiently and safely and welcome back team members.

Businesses fully accept the need to protect public health. We have invested millions in making our premises safe for customers and staff and have spent countless months rigorously complying with government guidance.

Given the success of the vaccination roll-out, lower hospitalisation rates and lower death rates, it is clear we are making good progress back towards the near full re-opening of Scotland’s economy. Because of this, we should see an equitable weighting given to the views of the business community.

Any updates to the emergency coronavirus legislation in the coming weeks must reflect the current situation and the views of Scotland’s job creators. As we move to level zero, government should allow those who have been diligently home working to finally have the option to be able to return to their places of work.

Another key aspect of the return to normality will be the ability to carry out business travel domestically. Any restrictions on this, whilst travel for other purposes is allowed, will result in frustration and confusion. We need to see consistency across all guidance and which won’t tie one hand behind our back whilst we try to recover from the pandemic.

Office re-opening is a crucial step forward for businesses in Scotland, particularly with its interdependency link to other sectors in the economy. It is imperative that Government understands the strength of feeling in the business community and works with us to ensure that office-based businesses and employees are not left behind as we come out of lockdown restrictions.

Liz Cameron is chief executive of the Scottish Chambers of Commerce