BUSINESS groups have expressed relief the Scottish Government has not imposed a national lockdown, but raised concerns over the impact continued restrictions will have.

Three council areas – Angus, Fife, and Perth and Kinross – will move into level 3 of Scotland’s five-tier system of coronavirus measures from Friday.

The decision for no local authorities to move into the toughest level 4 tier has been welcomed but firms called for stimulus to be provided to those in areas where measures increased.

Liz Cameron, chief executive of the Scottish Chambers of Commerce, said: “Businesses and communities will be greatly relieved that a national lockdown has not been imposed across Scotland.

“However, as soon as evidence shows the growth of the infection is reducing, we expect restrictions to be eased sooner rather than later, enabling our economy to reopen.

“Meanwhile, those areas that are moving up a level and those in level 3 face devastating consequences unless rapid and effective business stimulus is put in place.”

Cameron welcomed progress on a vaccine and expects the Government to be working on “on a detailed roll-out plan”.

She added: “However, until it becomes widely available, we still need to live with and manage the virus whilst keeping our economy open.”

Andrew McRae, the Federation of Small Businesses’ Scotland policy chairman, said: “Today’s changes see many more Scottish independent businesses face new restrictions.

“However, the decisions made by the First Minister today means that many firms in Scotland are facing fewer restrictions when compared with the hard lockdown earlier this year.

“While it might not feel like it, that likely means fewer job losses and business failures when faced with the alternative.

“Nonetheless, we know that many smaller operators find the restrictions in place punitive – and that’s why we’d urge the Scottish Government to keep them in place only as long as they need to be.”

The First Minister announced the decision to MSPs in the Scottish Parliament yesterday.

By joining the central belt, Dundee and Ayrshire in level 3, pubs and restaurants in new level 3 areas will be prohibited from selling alcohol and will close at 6pm, with last entry at 5pm.

From Friday, residents in the three island authorities – Orkney, Shetland and Western Isles, which are all in level 1 – will be able to meet with one other household inside their homes “up to a strict maximum of six people”, the First Minister said.

Western Isles Council leader Roddie Mackay said: “This is very good news for the islands.

“It is testament to our communities that this relaxation has been introduced.

“Of course the reason we have been able to do this is because people have been so compliant with the rules and guidelines and I would encourage everyone to continue doing so.”