SCOTTISH football has often been accused of a degree of insularity over the years. Whether it be the same old names getting thrown up whenever the managerial merry-go-round gets into full swing, or the propensity for teams outwith the Old Firm to only really do their shopping in the transfer market in Scotland, it is perhaps a charge that carries a little weight.

At least it used to. It feels to me like the last couple of years have signalled a changing of the guard, where more and more clubs are looking outward, and at the same time our game is receiving wider recognition on the international stage.

Rangers’ run to the Europa League final last season certainly helped in boosting the profile of football in our country, as have the numerous exports who have thrived at clubs beyond our shores after moving on from the Premiership. Celtic have been leading the charge in this regard – pretty much all of their big-money departures have gone on to give a good account of themselves after leaving Parkhead – but there are other success stories, too.

John McGinn, Scott McKenna, Allan Campbell, Ali McCann and Lyndon Dykes all earned moves down south for a crack at English football after impressing in the Premiership for clubs outside of Glasgow’s big two, and the quintet have all gone from strength to strength since. That isn’t all that uncommon – English clubs have often recruited from Scotland, with varying degrees of success – but the fact that we are seeing so many of our up-and-coming players opt for a move overseas in recent years is certainly something a bit different.

Aaron Hickey, the former Hearts left-back that joined Bologna two years ago, is the obvious poster boy. After spending two years in Serie A, steadily improving and receiving regular game-time in one of Europe’s top leagues, the 20-year-old recently sealed an £18million move to Brentford. Where Hickey went, others have followed – literally in the case of Aberdeen’s Lewis Ferguson, who sealed a move to the same Italian club earlier this week. Josh Doig has opted for a similar move after swapping Hibs for Hellas Verona.

These are deals that simply wouldn’t have been done just a few years ago. Scouts on the continent rarely looked beyond the Old Firm when scouring Scotland for new recruits and there appears to be a creeping realisation that the Premiership is an untapped market.

Don’t just take my word for it, though. In an interview with Sky Sports on Thursday, former Bologna scout Francesco Strozzi gave a ringing endorsement of the Scottish game. “My first thought about Scottish football is that the Scottish Premiership is an incredibly, incredibly underrated league,” he said. “In my opinion, it doesn't have quite enough attention in the eyes of many scouting departments around the world.”

It’s certainly garnering attention now. It’s tempting to point to the Scots deciding to up sticks and move to Italy as evidence of some new trend where Scottish players are the new must-have accessory in Serie A but as Scottish youth football expert Owen Brown observed on Twitter, an underreported factor in these recent moves is that Hickey and Doig share the same agent. It’s possible that the agency are simply using their contacts in Italy.

As well as these moves suiting the players themselves, it’s also noteworthy that Scottish teams have stuck to their guns and received seven-figure fees for their talented youngsters. Again, this is something that just a few years ago seemed to rarely transpire. Finally, after years of watching our top talents leave for a tuppence, Scottish clubs are receiving fair prices for their best players.

Aberdeen have sold a player for a club-record fee in each of the last three summer transfer windows. Should Calvin Bassey move on from Rangers in the near future, as is looking increasingly likely, the Ibrox club will surely bank a club-record sale. It is an encouraging trend.

It is not only players exiting the Scottish scene that are choosing more exotic locales, though. More and more, clubs in Scotland are expanding their horizons and looking to new markets to find new recruits. This isn’t unusual for the Old Firm, whose scouting networks cover the globe, but it is a change in approach for those further down the league table.

Take Aberdeen, for example, who have signed two players from the Hungarian top flight this summer. Or how about Hearts, who have regularly turned to Australia in their search for new recruits over the last year or so. What about Hibs, who have brought in players from Croatia, Portugal, Australia, Switzerland and The Gambia during Lee Johnson’s first transfer window as manager.

It's refreshing to see clubs look further afield and it’s also nice to see Scottish clubs dishing out transfer fees to land their targets. After what feels like an eternity of teams wheeling and dealing in the market, bringing in players on free transfers from other Scottish teams and rarely looking outwards, it is a welcome change in tack.

And Another Thing

THERE has been much debate over the inclusion of transgender athletes competing in women’s sport recently. On one side of the argument you have those who contend that trans women have a biological advantage over their cis counterparts; on the other, there are some that feel that excluding trans women from female sport is exclusionary to one of society’s most oppressed groups.

I can certainly see both sides. There is clearly some weight to the notion that certain trans women have an unfair physical edge in such contests but at the same time I can’t help but sympathise with these women who have as much right to compete in top-level sport as anyone else.

I don’t pretend to know what the solution is. All I would point out is that this is a highly nuanced and delicate subject and like most things in life, it is not black and white. The answer lies somewhere in the middle, in the shades of grey, and I don’t believe that entrenched partisanship gets us anywhere.