Dubai: Scottish football is at its healthiest in a long time, according to former Rangers and Scotland striker Ally McCoist, who now tips the national team to reach their first major tournament in over 20 years.

“We’ve already got ourselves an automatic play-off place after winning our group with Albania and Israel, so I don’t see why not,” he said of their chances of reaching Euro 2020, in what would be their first major tournament qualification since World Cup 1998.

Speaking to Gulf News on the sidelines of a Question of Sport golf day at the Address Montgomerie last Thursday, he added: “There are younger players coming through and they’ve been doing really well, so I’m optimistic and hopeful. I’m loathed to get carried away but we are in a far better place than we’ve been for a wee while.”

He added that the national team’s rise comes as a direct consequence of the Scottish Premiership being at full strength and competitive again thanks to the return of Rangers, Hearts and Hibernian back to the top flight.

“As a country we’ve never been strong enough to have our better teams out of the league, so now we’ve got Hearts, Hibs and Rangers back in it makes sense that we’ve got a better league,” he said in reference to Celtic’s failure to so far run away with the league title again this season.

As well as being level at the top, both Celtic and Rangers can make the last 32 of the Europa League against Austrian opposition this week. It’s the closest things have been since the blue half of Glasgow re-emerged from four years in the doldrums two seasons ago, after they went into liquidation in 2012 and had to start again from the bottom of the fourth division.

“I think it’s just a case of the big teams getting back in the league and there being a bit more consistency for the first time in a little while,” said McCoist. “We’ve maybe got one or two younger boys coming through as well. Boys like James Forrest, Ryan Christie, Andy Robertson and Keiran Tierney are coming through, so I’m positive without getting carried away. I think Scottish football has been in a far healthier place than it has been in a number of years.”