SCOTLAND’S economic performance improved slightly in May – though GDP for the month was still down by almost a quarter compared to the period prior to lockdown.

After falling 18.9% in April – the first full month of coronavirus restrictions – the economy grew by 1.5% in real terms in May.

But the latest Scottish monthly GDP figures show that performance was 22.1% below the level for February.

In the hardest hit sector, accommodation and food services, output plunged by almost 90% over three months to May.

The latest figures also show the “unprecedented nature” of the crisis, with the drop in output standing in contrast to a fall in GDP of 4% over 18 months during the financial crisis and recession in 2008 and 2009.

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Economy Secretary Fiona Hyslop said: “Although there was a slight rise in GDP in May, these figures once again confirm the serious impact the coronavirus pandemic is having on the economy across the UK.”

The monthly figures were developed to help measure the impact of Covid-19 on Scotland’s economy, and are still experimental data.

But they show how some sectors have been harder hit than others, as alongside the 89.8% slump in the accommodation and food services, arts, culture and recreation saw a drop of 54.3% over the three months to May.

Output fell in nearly every industry in March and April, the statistics show, although the results for May were “more mixed”.

In the construction sector, total output is estimated to have increased by 8.2% in May, after a drop of 40.1% in April.

Meanwhile the services sector – the largest part of Scotland’s economy – is estimated to have increased by 0.3% in May after falling 17.5% in April.

The report said: “Some parts of the economy are estimated to have seen a pick-up in activity as firms and consumers adapted to physical distancing requirements, including some people returning to work.

“This can be seen in the manufacturing and wider production sectors, and in retail and wholesale and transport services.

“However, many of the other industries across the services sector experienced further falls in output or remained unchanged at low levels due to the ongoing lockdown and wider impacts on activity.”

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Hyslop said the Scottish Government is “determined to do everything in our power to support economic recovery and protect people’s jobs and livelihoods throughout this crisis”.

She added: “Since May, lockdown restrictions in Scotland have been eased on several business sectors including manufacturing, construction and retail, and the Scottish Government has introduced a series of measures to help stimulate the recovery.

“We are implementing a £230 million investment package to create jobs in construction, low-carbon schemes, digitisation and business support and last week we unveiled £38m for high-growth companies.