SCOTLAND’S GDP rose by 0.2% in October, official statistics have shown, as the Finance Secretary warned of the impact of the new Omicron variant of Covid-19 on the economy.

The new figures, released on Wednesday, show Scotland’s economic output was 0.4% lower than pre-pandemic levels.

But Kate Forbes stressed the importance of support announced by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon on Tuesday, which pledged £375 million to support businesses affected by new restrictions designed to curb the spread of the new variant.

Some £200 million of the funding was pledged from the current Scottish Government Budget, with other plans due to be slowed down or cut to fund the support, while the rest is made up of £175m from the UK Government.

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Forbes said: “The latest GDP figures show Scottish output is now just 0.4% below the pre-pandemic level of February 2020, which is encouraging news and confirms that Scotland’s economy is in a good position to seize future opportunities.

“However, we are all too aware of the impact that Covid-19 has had – and continues to have – on business and the wider economy.

“The emergence of the new Omicron variant and the speed at which it is spreading bring additional economic uncertainty.

“That is why the actions we have taken so far, including the latest £375m package of financial support announced by the First Minister yesterday, are firmly focused on supporting businesses, protecting jobs and mitigating the continuing economic impact of Covid.

“Meanwhile, the Scottish Government continues to call for greater financial flexibility from the Treasury to ensure we can act quickly to safeguard public health, reduce economic harm and build our recovery.”

The services sector grew by 0.3% during the month, with health and social work contributing the highest proportion with a 2% rise between September and October.

The construction sector also contributed the highest negative contribution (minus 3.4%).