DESPITE their well-publicised financial problems, Rangers are not the worst-off club in Scottish football.

Yet if the Ibrox side do not gain promotion this season, the consequences of their spending a further year outwith the top flight, "will be pretty horrendous" for the rest of Scottish football, according to the Red Flag Alert Football Distress Report.

Published by Begbies Traynor, the business rescue and recovery specialists, it shows a significant upturn in the national game from two years ago, when the comparable document warned that one Scottish club in eight faced financial failure.

The report provides annual snapshots of financial distress in 72 English and 32 Scottish clubs. The latest figures reveal just three clubs in the English Championship and Leagues One and Two are in serious financial distress, and just one in Scotland, where the game is "in good overall health".

Only one club in Scotland's top three divisions shows signs of critical financial distress, down by two thirds since a year ago, and by 75% since 2012.

"Rangers isn't technically the most financially stressed club in Scotland, as a result of the recent cash injection," said Begbies' Ken Pattullo. He declines to name the club concerned, "but there is another club in Scotland which is financially worse off than Rangers".

"Rangers don't actually have that much debt at the moment, other than their Sports Direct liabilities. However, the rest of Scottish football has unquestionably suffered financially due to Rangers' absence from the top league. The financial consequences would be pretty horrendous for Rangers if they don't go up this season, and probably also for the rest of Scottish football.

"You see the amount of TV money available since Rangers left the SPL. It would be financially very, very difficult for Rangers if they were not to go up. And whatever happens, only two of the big three, if you like, can currently make it out of the Championship. Hearts are up, and whether it is Hibs or Rangers who join them remains to be seen.

"How damaging will it be if it's nor Rangers? Very is the short answer. From the point of view of the Scottish game, the sooner Rangers get back into the top league, the better. Hibs' fans might not want to hear this, but that's the unfortunate reality. Scotland is very dependent on Rangers, Celtic, Hearts and Hibs being in the top league. Not having them there is doing nobody any good except the clubs who are there instead.

"The future of the Scottish game is very dependent on the financial salvation of Rangers.

"It is bound to be financially damaging for whichever team fails to go up, but from a Rangers point of view, they have at least stabilised themselves. Dave King has now bought in, and the previous fans' boycott now seems to have stopped. Would it be a catastrophe if Rangers did not go up? Would it lead them them back into administration? Probably not.

"Would it put Hibs into administration if they don't go up? Probably not. Hibs have stabilised their position as well, but if they don't go up it would unquestionably be more damaging to them."

Given the astronomical money now available through TV in the English game, with no apparent prospect of approaching that in Scotland, does the game here not face a slow and irreversible decline?

"I think that's overly pessimistic," said Pattullo. "The vast sums in England and the reduction in Scotland have coincided, because Rangers are not in the top league. I think when you see Rangers back, whether next season or in two years' time, you will see Sky and other broadcasters offering more money. The unfortunate reality is that for anyone outside Scotland, all they care about is the Rangers v Celtic game. I think decline will be reversed when Rangers are back in the top league."

The implosion of Rangers' finances has prompted increased wariness among other big clubs to spend heavily on transfers, he says. "Good business planning in the boardrooms has stabilised what was a really dangerous situation for the sport in Scotland. With the dearth of TV money, clubs have been wisely cutting their cloth accordingly, and largely avoided splashing out on players in the last two or three transfer windows."

In England, Financial Fair Play, the fit and proper test of club owners. has been tightened up considerably. Owners are taking action earlier where there are problems, with clubs being offered for sale or investment 'off market' before the business fails.

The five percent drop in average attendances across the Scottish Premier, Championship and Leagues One and Two, since last year's report, is due in part to the recent boycott of Rangers matches - a further demonstration of the importance of Rangers. But nobody should delude themselves. The story would be the same were Celtic to have gone down the same road.