Confidence among small firms in Scotland “evaporated” over the summer, according to a survey.
The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) found optimism slid from +3.3 points to -13.5 points in the third quarter.
The drop reversed a resurgence of confidence seen earlier in the year.
While confidence fell in Scotland in the last quarter, the overall UK figure rose marginally from -8.8 points to -8.1 points.
According to the latest research, 76% of Scottish businesses said their costs had increased compared with the same period last year.
FSB’s Scotland policy chairman Andrew McRae said: “Many smaller firms are trapped between the rock of increased overheads and the hard place of an uncertain economic future.
“Policymakers must take action on both of these fronts: taking action to reduce costs and providing certainty whenever possible.”
He added: “We must see progress on avoiding a no-deal, no-transition Brexit.
“While firms must do what they can to prepare for this outcome, it would be unforgivable if good Scottish businesses go to the wall because of political games.”
Recent official figures indicated that Scotland’s economy shrank between April and June.
Data released by the Scottish government showed output contracted by 0.3% over the period.
Construction saw a sharp reduction in activity – and Scotland’s service sector barely grew.