Graeme Herd, the former head coach of Scottish Cycling, is planning to launch a world-class professional women's cycling team in Scotland and is hopes to get the project off the ground by the end of this year.

It is his belief that this would not only provide a much needed Scottish presence on the international stage, but also a means to foster and nurture homegrown talent that is currently lacking. Speaking to Herald Sport, Herd said: "The goal is to get a UCI team up and running in time for the 2014 season with a three-year plan working towards the Commonwealth Games and beyond to the Olympics. I have a proposal in place and at the stage of trying to secure a key sponsor to take that forward.

"In theory it should be a natural progression from Scottish domestic to international level, but many performance programmes in Britain are aimed towards the track and that doesn't lend itself to road cycling. Historically road racing has evolved in a very different way because it's not national federations but trade teams who are at the top of the sport. If women want to compete at the highest level outside of the World Championships and Olympics, they have to be part of one of those teams."

In Britain, there is currently just one women's UCI professional cycling team, Wiggle-Honda, which made its debut this year. There are six men's including Team Sky, Rapha-Condor-JLT and IG Sigma Sport. Last autumn Scottish-Dutch pro women's outfit Team Ibis Cycles folded after its backer withdrew, leaving riders such as Anne Ewing, Kayleigh Brogan, Eileen Roe and Jane Barr adrift.

Herd, who himself competed at the 1994 Commonwealth Games, had a role in forming the Scottish Cycling supported Breast Cancer Care Cycling Team. While that has been a relative success, it is his hope to now take things to the next level with a UCI registered team independent from the sport's governing body.

Herd draws comparisons with Australia's Orica-GreenEdge, which has men and women's teams running in parallel. "We're not re-inventing the wheel, the Aussies have already made a template which is proven to work," he said. "Both those teams, feature predominantly Australians, but with other top international riders on the roster. Likewise to have an entirely Scottish team would be insular because the women's professional scene is multinational, which I believe is a good thing for rider development and sponsors alike."

A big lure, he said, is that while men's road cycling is split into multiple tiers, the women's structure is far more straightforward with only one level, UCI trade team. "What that means

is all women's teams have equal access to compete at the top of the sport," said Herd. "With a roster of 12 riders you could feasibly

do Scottish domestic, UK national, Tour Series and UCI international races."

The Johnson Health

Tech Grand Prix Series, the women's equivalent of the Pearl Izumi Tour Series, is now in its third season and attracted record crowds in 2013. Brian Cookson, the president of British Cycling, has announced plans for a women's Tour of Britain in 2014, while calls for the Tour de France to follow suit has been followed

by a 90,000 signature petition championed by Olympic and world medallists Marianne Vos and Emma Pooley.

To that end, Herd said

he was blown away by the support for the women's race at the British National Road Race Championships. "I've never seen anything like that in the 30 years I've been involved in cycling," he said. "My overwhelming feeling when I was driving round through the streets of Glasgow is that we are only a small step away from changing the culture of this country to becoming a bike racing nation. It was more akin to something you'd see at a Belgian classic. The crowd was wild and I mean that in the best possible sense. It was incredible and I never thought I would see that in Scotland."

Herd said he hoped

this would help attract sponsors. "This is the ideal time to get involved," he said. "Historically women's racing suffer from a lack of profile but that's changing; they are getting more equal coverage to the men. But in a set-up like this, women's cycling offers better value for money. To invest in a team at UCI level, for a top men's squad you are talking about £18m but for a women's that figure would be closer to £1m. In terms of return, it's a no brainer

as the profile will explode."