After a bleak winter period, this week’s removal of Omicron-related restrictions will enable more parts of the economy to reopen fully and start the hard work of rebuilding business trade and recovering consumer confidence.

The economy is in a much better place now than this time last year, underpinned by the delivery of the vaccination programme and the resilience of our communities to respond in the toughest of times. However, uncertainty remains the watchword for 2022.

Whilst pandemic-related restrictions remain in place, Scotland’s predicted rapid return to pre-pandemic levels of economic growth remains at risk as businesses come to terms with rising costs, inflation and recruitment challenges. The prospect of increased restrictions is a constant concern and, whilst the threat of new variants is unpredictable, governments must allow the economy to make a comeback in the months and years ahead if we are to protect jobs and livelihoods.

With the flatlining and decline of Omicron cases, the Scottish Government must go further by removing pandemic-related guidance and empowering employers and employees to adjust to the new normal, particularly when it comes to where and how we work and on international travel.

The vast majority of companies have already adopted and implemented hybrid models of working, in partnership with employees. But to have a fully functioning hybrid approach, the Scottish Government must remove its directional guidance on working from home which limits access to office workspaces. Companies have spent millions on making workplaces safe for staff and customers. These are important hubs for collaboration, training and productivity and foster an environment which supports the mental health and social wellbeing of our workforce. Footfall from office workers provides an essential customer base to many small businesses in towns and city centres and we must arrest the economic harm they have suffered through the pandemic. That’s why it is now essential that the Scottish Government’s work-from-home guidance comes to a natural end and employers are encouraged to fully deploy their hybrid models.

Likewise, pandemic-related restrictions and guidance on the travel, tourism and the aviation sectors – critical economic multipliers for Scotland’s economy – need to see more support and alignment between Scotland and the UK. Testing and quarantine requirements have badly hit airports, airlines and travel firms as they have put many people off from booking trips, as well as impacting on Scotland’s attractiveness as a destination for business and leisure. The impacts on the aviation sector have been dire, with around 4,400 people having lost their jobs at Glasgow, Edinburgh and Aberdeen airports since the start of the pandemic.

Scotland’s businesses need to urgently see a commitment to a continued four-nations approach to travel restrictions, pre-departure and return testing to ensure that Scotland’s airports and our economy are not put at a competitive disadvantage. It is essential that the Scottish Government’s long-awaited Aviation Strategy reaffirms the importance of the sector’s recovery from the pandemic, supports businesses to expand their export base and protects regional connectivity. Maintaining good domestic and international connectivity is key to keeping Scotland’s airports competitive. Therefore, this strategy must put in place the necessary packages of financial and practical support to enable the future growth of these sectors.

As Scotland begins its adjustment to "living with Covid-19" and the threat of new variants, as announced by the First Minister, the business community stands ready to work with the Scottish Government to develop an economic recovery and growth plan that protects Scotland’s world-renowned sectors and invests for our future growth.

Liz Cameron is chief executive of Scottish Chambers of Commerce