SCOTTISH football will need to have the best youth development system in Europe if the country is to qualify for major international tournaments ever again.

Brian McLaughlin, the new head of Scottish football’s performance schools, has been charged with leading the programme which has already produced encouraging results and is hoped will return the national team to the World Cup and European Championship.

The SFA have seven performance schools – Celtic, Rangers and Hearts each have their own – and the former Parkhead winger insisted that only being the best will be good enough for a country which does not have the resources others can boast.

McLaughlin said: “For Scotland to come back again we need to go in young, we need to go to youth development and we need to have the best youth development programme in Europe. If we do that then the clubs in the top five leagues in Europe will come here and offer substantial money to clubs.

“We have changed the way we now develop players and we are now starting to see the first signs of it.

“Players are now braver on the ball and there’s a real belief that no matter who we are playing that if we execute our plan then we’ll do okay.

“It’s incredible to see the number of boys who have made their first-team debuts at their clubs this season and the only way we will improve our game is if the SFA and our clubs stay together on this.

“We don’t have the finances that other nations have in Europe but we can change this generation who have never seen Scotland at a major tournament. We are trying to play with a style which many didn’t believe was possible and at the start we didn’t get results.

“But once the results start coming it makes it easier and the boys must have believed something was changing. Now we need everyone to buy into it but we need to start to change.”

Last year, 44 professional contracts were earned by the graduates, including Chelsea’s Billy Gilmour and Heart of Midlothian’s Chris Hamilton, who became the first players from the programme to play for Scotland Under-21s, at the Toulon Tournament in June.