SCOTTISH business leaders have demanded “urgent, clear and realistic guidance” about the steps they need to take before reopening after the coronavirus lockdown.

It followed Nicola Sturgeon publishing a detailed four-stage plan to ease the current restrictions between now and the autumn, provided the virus remain under control.

In the first phase, due to start on May 28, more workplaces will reopen, including construction sites, drive-through outlets, garden centres and nurseries.

Garden centre cafes will also be allowed to reopen for takeaway.

The Federation of Small Businesses in Scotland welcome the return of some trading next Thursday, but said more information was needed on staff and customer protections.

Andrew McRae, FSB’s Scotland policy chair, said: “Today’s publication is the first step required to getting our economy moving and ensuring as many Scottish businesses as possible make it through this crisis. 

“It looks likely, however, that many businesses will be required to make adjustments to their workplaces before the shutters can come up. 

“But at the moment there’s little guidance for firms in Scotland regarding what those alterations might be.

“While the First Minister said this guidance is coming in the days ahead, there is no time to lose.  There can be no further delay in getting this vital information out the door in a format that’s easy to understand. 

“In addition, smaller businesses may require an advice service to help them make appropriate changes.

“While we recognise that this is a public health crisis, it is also an economic crisis. 

“With a third of closed Scottish businesses unsure if they’ll reopen, local firms need to know that Scottish policymakers want them to succeed. The Scottish Government needs to put smaller firms at the heart of their plans for recovery.”

Dr Liz Cameron, Chief Executive of the Scottish Chambers of Commerce, echoed the call for more specific information from the government.

She said: "This route map on the staged exit of lockdown is a welcome and helpful start.

"Businesses have been clear they need practical guidance on when they can return to the workplace and what measures they need to put in place to ensure the safety of their staff and customers.

"Many employers have already implemented preventative measures to protect our employees and our customers and we ask that the publication of detailed sectoral guidelines are accelerated to support businesses to prepare. 

"Whilst today’s route map helps us to understand the sequencing of relaxing the lockdown, the absence of a more detailed time plan for each phase still means that businesses, employees and consumers cannot make plans with complete certainty.

"Focus until now has correctly been on protecting lives but we need to start balancing this with safeguarding jobs and the economy."

With construction sites already back at work in England, Vaughan Hart, Managing Director of the Scottish Building Federation, called for more speed in Scotland.

He said: “I welcome the fact the Scottish Government has given priority to the construction industry returning to work.

"But many of our members have already spent the past weeks undertaking the kind of preparatory work envisaged to ensure sites are safe and will be ready to begin building works through a 'soft start' either immediately or by the end of May. 

"It is critical the Scottish Government gives the go-ahead for that as soon as reasonably possible and then for the further stages of the plan so that construction can begin to gradually increase activity whilst keeping site safety as the top priority.”

“As urged by the first Minister, the Scottish Building Federation will continue to work closely with the Trades Unions to ensure collective collaboration which will also assist with the safe return to work. We have a long standing working relationship with the Trades Unions and welcome their support and collaboration as the industry returns to work.”

Mairi Spowage, Deputy Director of the Fraser of Allander Institute economic thinktank, said the routemap was more cautious than the approach being taken in England, with a continued focus on staying at home where possible.

 She said: “Those businesses able to reopen in the phase set to begin next Thursday will only be those operating outside and able to put in place physical distancing measures.

“What is clear is that large parts of the economy will remain mothballed, or operating significantly below capacity, for many weeks and months to come.

“Obviously, as some workplaces open from next week, it will be challenging for workers who need to use public transport

“Employers are asked to consider flexible working patterns and staggered start, but it may not always be possible. 

“We understand further guidance on transport will be forthcoming in the next few days.

“It will be important that early guidance and additional support is available to parents and those with caring responsibilities to help them work with their employers to find ways for them to get back to work safely, despite the constraints around physical distancing which are likely to remain for some time.

"The support for those who need to continue to shield themselves will also need to be explicitly set out.”