SCOTLAND'S economy will take "months, if not years" to recover from the unprecedented shock of the coronavirus pandemic, a leading economic think-tank has said.

The Fraser of Allander Institute (FAI) warned rural communities are particularly exposed, and said the economy that emerges from the crisis may look "quite different".

In a sobering assessment, it said pubs, cafes and restaurants are facing a "total cut-off in demand" unseen in previous recessions.

It said: "The scale of the potential outbreak – with up to 20 per cent of all working age people impacted at any one time – coupled with an unprecedented public health response, which has led to an effective shutdown of large parts of our economy, is truly without precedent."

It came as it was announced a further six people have died in Scotland after contracting coronavirus, taking the total number of deaths to 22.

Nicola Sturgeon confirmed 51 patients are in intensive care units north of the Border.

Professor Graeme Roy, director of the FAI, said the "large-scale mothballing of our economy in response to the public health emergency is unlike anything we have seen since World War Two".

He said: "Businesses and policymakers always knew that a global pandemic represented a major risk to our highly integrated global economy.

"But the pace at which this crisis has escalated has caught many off-guard.

"Assuming that the public health emergency will pass in the coming months, the hope of many is that that the economy should come out the other side with only a limited hit to its long-term productive capacity.

"But this is looking increasingly overly optimistic. The scale of the shutdown in our economy is so large it will take months, if not years, to recover.

"Key now will be ensuring that long-term scarring effects of any recession can be mitigated as much as possible.

"The economy that emerges from this, from the shops on our high street through to day-to-day working practices, is likely to look quite different."

The FAI, which is based at Strathclyde University, said the economy is already in a sharp downturn.

It said services relying on "social spending", such as the tourism and hospitality sector, are particularly exposed.

In a special report on the economic impact of coronavirus, the think-tank said this may have a disproportionate effect on rural communities in Scotland, where there are a high number of smaller businesses and self-employed people.

It said: "Any sharp loss of jobs in these communities may force people to move away to seek new opportunities elsewhere, making it harder for them to get back on their feet when the immediate crisis passes."

The tourism and entertainment sectors are vital to Scotland.

Around 13% of the Scottish economy and 19% of employment is made up of such businesses, including retailers, hotels and restaurants.

Meanwhile, the FAI said many families lack sufficient savings to cover their bills for an extended period of time.

Only 42% of Scottish households in the bottom income decile would be able to cover one month of their regular income from savings, it said.

The think-tank said it is clear the global economy is "heading for a sharp slowdown, with a recession inevitable for many countries and sectors".

It said: "As in previous recessions, it will be the most vulnerable in society who will be most exposed to any fallout from a downturn in growth prospects that lasts for years, rather than weeks or months.

"Concerns will also be raised about the future impacts upon young people, many of whom have already had their schooling and exams turned on their head."

The FAI said a shift to different ways of working, such as more home working and greater use of technology, seems "inevitable" in the aftermath of the pandemic.

It said: "It remains to be seen what type of economy will emerge from the current crisis."

Mr Roy said: “How individual sectors and businesses will adapt over the next few months – from retail through to universities – will change behaviours forever.

“The government’s response to the public health crisis is arguably the first step on a new social partnership between the state and business, perhaps unlocking a much broader conversation about inequalities and sharing the proceeds of growth more evenly across society.”

Mairi Spowage, deputy director of the FAI, said "things are clearly escalating quickly and changing day-by-day".

She added: "As with all previous recessions, some individuals, businesses and local communities will be impacted more than others. Of particular concern – at list initially – were businesses relying upon so-called ‘social spending’, such as tourism businesses, cafes, restaurants and retail.

"These sectors will look very different in the future."