The economy is "bumping along the bottom of a recession" rather than undergoing a real recovery, a new study has suggested.
The Scottish Chambers of Commerce (SCC) made the claim as it published its latest business survey - which found that business sentiment remained "historically weak" in the last three months of 2012.
Another study by the CBI revealed that export orders had declined for the first time in three years. Its industrial trends survey also showed total new orders for Scottish firms had continued to fall.
CBI Scotland director Iain McMillan said the "disappointing" figures showed the manufacturing sector "still faces a very difficult economic situation". He added: "Although expectations for domestic orders and exports over the next three months are positive, the numbers do not indicate any real strength of recovery going forward."
The SCC survey, which was carried out along with Strathclyde University's Fraser of Allander Institute, found confidence levels in most sectors were weak - although the manufacturing sector had seen a rise in this in the final quarter of 2012.
The report said the findings were "indicative of below trend growth continuing and of an economy bumping along the bottom of a recession rather than any substantial sense of a real recovery". It cautioned: "The 'age of austerity' seems set to continue for a further year."
The SCC study said that the Scottish economy "essentially remained weak during the final quarter of 2012 although there was an unexpected rise in manufacturing optimism".
Responding to the CBI report that export orders had declined for the first time in three years, a Scottish Government spokeswoman said: "Strengthening Scotland's economic links to other countries and increasing overseas exports is a priority of this Government. The public sector is focused on working effectively with the business community to showcase the products and services Scotland has to offer, and tomorrow we will publish new figures which illustrate how our actions are helping Scottish firms grow their exports.
"There are exciting international opportunities to seize in emerging economies. That is why our enterprise agencies are working to improve our access to, and dialogue with, international growth markets so that we open up Scottish exports to new customers and build on Scotland's attractiveness as a place for international trade and investment.
"In this economic climate we recognise there's no room for complacency and that is why we are using every lever currently available to us to secure new inward investment and to increase the volume and value of Scottish exports."