SCOTLAND’S football clubs face a £3 million training black hole because of the “madness of Brexit”.

According to figures from the Scottish Parliament’s Information Centre (SPICe), around 20 clubs and organisations have benefited from payouts worth €4,049,829 (£3,411,512) from the EU’s Vocational Education and Training fund since it launched in 2014.

Eight top-flight clubs, including Aberdeen, Rangers, Dundee United and Partick Thistle have all in recent years successfully benefited from the Erasmus+ grants, which fund activities and exchange programmes to help develop young footballers.

The funding helped the Dons organise two trips to Austria and Portugal for their under-20s squad.

St Johnstone Football Club under-20s took part in a two-week training camp to Portugal during which they played against two local sides and attended a Portuguese first division match, thanks to the funding.

Some of the biggest beneficiaries of the scheme have been smaller, grassroots groups.

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Glasgow Girls FC were awarded €57,160 last year. This was used to take their under-19s National Performance Team to one of the world’s best training camps in Tenerife over the winter.

Former First Minister Henry McLeish told the Sunday National that the loss of funding would have an adverse impact on investment in players and young people.

“The madness of Brexit will impact in many areas in Scotland. We have participated and done well out of EU funding and that’s to the credit of the game and the clubs to have done so.

“Any investment in players and young people is to be welcomed. This will impact adversely and it’s unlikely that money can be replaced by other funding.”

The ex-Labour MSP, who was formerly a professional footballer, was charged with writing a review of Scottish football 10 years ago, and establishing a blueprint for the future of the game.

Last month he strongly criticised the Scottish FA for failing to reach many of its targets.

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He said that one of the “great weaknesses” of the Scottish game was how poorly young talent is developed.

Speaking to The National he said: “I would urge all the clubs in Scotland to think young. We need to bring through more young players. Also I find there are – in my judgement – too many foreign players in our game.

“We have to always think about the youth and overall [losing the EU vocational money] is really not a helpful step.

“It results from a uniquely inept and damaging decision taken by the Conservative Government and it’s a pity that young people and adults may suffer because of this misguided decision.”

The SNP’s Fulton MacGregor, who chairs Holyrood’s Future of Football group, said:“This fund has helped coach employability through work at Partick Thistle, funded an apprenticeship programme at Hearts and improved career success for apprentices at Aberdeen.

“But with many clubs already struggling to get by it’s now impossible for grassroots football and our youth development system to bridge this enormous funding gap.”

He added: “Without this cash, our young players are in danger of falling behind their European counterparts and our next Andy Robertson or Erin Cuthbert may not get the support they need.”

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The SFA alone has benefitted from nearly half a million euros to improve coaching standards in Scotland.

Erasmus runs on a seven-year cycle with the next due to start in 2021.

In the Brexit negotiating mandate published this week by Number 10, the UK is only set to consider participating in “elements of Erasmus” on a “time-limited basis” if “terms are in the UK’s interests”.

The EU has indicated that Erasmus is an all or nothing scheme.