SCOTTISH businesses are waiting “with bated breath” ahead of Nicola Sturgeon’s lockdown announcement today, warning they “cannot afford” any delay to easing restrictions.

The First Minister is set to announce if Scotland will lift its coronavirus restrictions and move beyond the current Level 0 rules in place.

Her statement on Tuesday afternoon will say whether or not most measures implemented north of the border as a result of the pandemic last March are to be lifted on Monday August 9 as hoped.

However, speaking to the Scotsman, businesses called for “absolute clarity”, adding they were “pinning their hopes” on the announcement.

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Dr Liz Cameron, Chief Executive of the Scottish Chambers of Commerce, said: “With business support schemes such as furlough now beginning to wind up, it’s essential that we see a rapid acceleration towards the full re-opening of our economy, to facilitate a strong recovery and to start rebuilding damaged consumer confidence.

“Scotland’s businesses can’t afford any further delay and we need the Scottish Government to remove physical distancing requirements in business settings, give businesses the green light to re-open offices and extend the list of roles eligible for self-isolation exemption."

The First Minister first set the August 9 date in June, even before the move to Level 0 on July 19 which increased the numbers of people who could gather and extended the opening hours of hospitality.

Other businesses such as soft play were finally allowed to reopen – however nightclubs are among those still closed ahead of Tuesday’s statement in a virtual session of the Scottish Parliament.

Dr Cameron added: “The business community expects the Scottish Government to confirm the move to beyond Level 0, without any further delay and to set out clear timetables and end dates for any mandated baseline measures which are retained beyond August 9.”

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Andrew McRae, Scottish policy char at the Federation of Small Businesses, said: “This can’t come soon enough for small workplaces, on whom the impact has been particularly severe.”

He added: “Everyone – business owners, staff and customers – need to know what is a legal rule, and what’s up to individual businesses to decide.”

And Stephen Montgomery, spokesperson for the Scottish Hospitality Group, added: “[Late-night venues] desperately need help to get back on their feet.

“For the rest of the sector, we’re now looking at some broader questions and issues, such as, what can the government do to help businesses recover from a year and a half of misery, what can it do to give staff and customers the confidence they need to have in hospitality, how can government and industry work together better in future.”