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Scotland’s First Minister has been told she must initiate an ambitious recovery plan for the economy amid fears the country is lagging behind the rest of the UK – with one analyst saying an “unprecedented response” was needed. With Scotland gradually emerging from lockdown, measures being proposed by the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) in Scotland include widespread tax breaks and investment in “shovel-ready” projects.

The CBI has warned failure to take the right action now could lead to levels of unemployment not seen in more than 30 years.

Ms Sturgeon’s own advisory group on economic recovery, which is spearheaded by former Tesco Bank chief Benny Higgins, will present its own blueprint for recovery today.

Coronavirus restrictions resulted in Scotland’s GDP shrinking by an estimated 19 percent in April, with unemployment rocketing to 127,000 – a figure likely to worsen once the Government’s furlough scheme ends in October.

This unprecedented crisis demands an unprecedented response to get the economy back on track

Tracy Black

In a joint letter to Mrs Sturgeon, CBI director-general Dame Carolyn Fairbairn and CBI Scotland director Tracy Black called for an ambitious recovery plan to be “urgently implemented”.

Ms Black said: “This unprecedented crisis demands an unprecedented response to get the economy back on track.

“The Scottish economy was already struggling before COVID-19 hit, and now every single bit of growth matters for people’s jobs and livelihoods.

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“While we live with the virus, any recovery plan must continue to prioritise health as well as the impact on the economy. Urgent interventions are required to create jobs, especially for young people, and investment.

“Speed is of the essence – we know the dangers of long-term unemployment and the impact it has on individuals and communities.

“That’s why we’re calling for the recovery plan to prioritise jobs and training to support getting people back to work as quickly as possible.”

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Job creation was the top priority, they argued, especially for young people who are likely to be the hardest hit.

They urged the expansion of schemes including the Transition Training Fund and the Flexible Workforce Development Fund to make it easier for people to switch between different sectors.

Shops in Scotland are set to reopen next Monday, two weeks after they did so south of the Border.

Pubs and restaurants are scheduled to return on July 15, 11 days later than the planned return in England on July 4.

Many in the industry north of the border voiced concerns after the return of beer gardens was delayed last week by Ms Sturgeon.

On Sunday, in reference to reports about fresh cases of COVID-19 in Beijing, Ms Sturgeon gave an indication of her cautious approach, tweeting: “Another reminder that the virus hasn’t gone away. Our exit from lockdown is underway and with a fair wind I hope we’ll be able to speed up aspects of it.

“But we mustn’t allow ourselves to think the risk has gone away, or become complacent in any way.”

Yesterday, commenting on reports that the R number, referring to the number of people an infected individual will go on to infect, was 2.88 in Germany, she posted: “Important to be neither complacent nor overndramatic about this.

“When case numbers low, small changes will do this to R number – we may see similar here in future.

“However, it is still a sharp reminder that virus hasn’t gone away and could quickly take off again. Care needed.”

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