A third of small business owners in Scotland fear they will not be able to reopen after the Covid-19 lockdown, according to a new survey.
The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) has found more than half (53%) of Scottish firms have been forced to close, compared to 41% across the UK as a whole.
Its survey of 5471 UK small business owners – 758 from Scotland – includes calls for Government support and clear guidance on how and when they should reopen.
Andrew McRae, FSB’s Scotland policy chairman, said: “In the jaws of the crisis, a huge share of independent Scottish firms did the right thing, followed the official advice and shut their doors.
“Our new survey shows that many of these operators worry they’re closed for good.
“We’re certain, however, that with the right help from Government, bigger businesses and the general public, we can ensure these fears aren’t realised.
“But this research does show that many local operators are on a knife-edge.”
Around one-fifth of the businesses have failed to or are struggling to make rent or mortgage repayments due directly to the economic impact of the lockdown.
More than 70% of businesses have furloughed staff to aid their survival, with 46% saying the ability to bring back staff gradually would keep their business viable.
Mr McRae said: “When the time comes to begin to reopen, businesses won’t be able to go from nought to 60 overnight.
“For many employers, they’ll want to phase a return to test any new systems and to keep their staff safe.
“Allowing the partial furloughing of workers is a vital policy move that would allow many smaller firms to restart smoothly and sustainably.
“When the focus shifts from shutting down to reopening safely, Scottish businesses will want clear no-nonsense guidance from the powers that be.
“We’ll need to see sustained help on offer to help firms avoid stalling on restart.”