Glasgow Caledonians have completed the signing of an inspirational and talismanic figure in Scotland prop Dave Hilton.

The 29-year-old follows his former club captain Andy Nicol in making the switch from Bath for what he sees as an opportunity to enhance his international prospects. And Caledonians can expect him to make his presence felt, whether or not Scotland rival Tom Smith re-signs, as they are hoping he will do.

''I thought long and hard about this move, but I wouldn't be coming if I didn't think I could keep getting better,'' he explained.

''It's a very positive move. I need to be more in the eye of the Scottish public and the selectors.

''If Tom signs again that's fair enough by me. I'm used to that situation, fighting for my place with England prop Kevin Yates at Bath.''

The prospect of Hilton and Smith battling head to head for a superteam place, and fellow Scotland front-row contenders Matt Proudfoot and Barry Stewart doing likewise at Edinburgh Reivers, indicates the strength in depth Scotland's sides are developing.

''That's the best thing with Andy Nicol moving there as well and Craig Chalmers, too. They are top quality players and I think Nicol will bring a new dimension to the team's play. He's been treated very unfairly at Bath over the past season. So there will be real competition for places in this squad,'' said Hilton, who made it clear that he himself is not prepared to be part of an under-performing side.

''I think we can be very competitive in Europe, but it's about time the boys that have been here for a while start performing. They should know that if they're not performing they'll be dropped.''

His own work ethic is reflected on his thoughts on leaving Bath after winning every domestic honour there, as well as the European Cup in 1997.

''It was a bit of a misquote recently when it was reported that I felt I hadn't had a fair deal at Bath, or at least it was taken a bit out of context,'' he said.

''I actually had a great run last season, only missing out on three first team matches all season and keeping Kevin out of the side.

''I've been very happy at Bath, they've given me the chance to become an international player and given me the experience that's helped my style of play.

''However I wasn't getting as much chance as I wanted to express my own leadership and running skills.

''By the time our back row were finished with the ball the backs were screaming for it, but so was I,'' he laughed.

British Lions man Smith - with whom officials don't expect to conclude talks until his returns from honeymoon next month - faces a real challenge if he stays, then.

After all, Hilton is the one with European Cup winning experience, as well as being the only current Scottish internationalist to be able to boast a 100 per cent record from two visits to Paris with his country, having played in the 1995 win and then again this year.

As to the longer term, Hilton's family circumstances - his biggest consideration in his decision to come to Scotland - provide an extra benefit in his move.

He only qualified for Scotland because his grandfather was born in Edinburgh, his family taking him south just weeks later.

Hilton's own son, then, would not have qualified to play for Scotland.

Yet a future Scotland prop just might now be on the way if their 15-month-old daughter Victoria gets a wee brother in the autumn.

''The biggest factor in our decision was that Ann's expecting another child in October and it will be hard for her to be away from her family at that time,'' said Hilton.

''But she's never been one to stand in the way of my career and if we do have a son then I suppose it will have all come full circle.''