THERE could be a “massive rise” in Scotland’s jobless total as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, MSPs have been warned, with not all companies able to open up again once lockdown restrictions are eased.

Liz Cameron, chief executive of the Scottish Chambers of Commerce, said its latest tracker research, from last week, found 43% of businesses “did not have confidence that they are actually going to survive this crisis”.

She told Holyrood’s Economy Committee that even when guidance on returning to work is published, some firms are “not certain if they will return to the markets”.

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Cameron warned: “Even with the job retention scheme, I unfortunately think there is going to be a massive rise in unemployment when we begin to look at the capacity issues.”

Tracy Black, the director of Confederation of British Industry (CBI) Scotland, said some firms may only be able to operate at 60% of the capacity they did before the outbreak – questioning if that would make it viable for them to continue.

She told MSPs: “Because social distancing is probably going to be with us for a long, long time, the harsh reality is even if you go to shift work, night shifts, change your production lines, the reality is it’s unlikely, certainly in manufacturing, that you will be able to get up to full capacity.

“Talking to some of our members, they reckon they will be probably operating at around 60% – at best they might get up to 80% – and for many companies that just isn’t a viable proposition any more, particularly if you work in those industries that have very tight margins, like automotive and aerospace.”

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She said “tailored support for different sectors that will take time to recover” will need to be put in place.

Susan Love, policy manager at the Federation of Small Businesses in Scotland, said its survey of around 800 small businesses “suggested about half of businesses in Scotland have closed as a result of the crisis and worryingly, of that half that have closed, just over a third worry about whether they will ever reopen”.

The Scottish Government has set up working groups in 14 different sectors of the economy to look at how to get back to work safely.