SCOTTISH football returns in all its glory this week: Hearts vs Dundee United, Betfred Cup Group A, Friday July 12.

The cut mark at the Scottish Open golf at the Renaissance Club will probably not even have been confirmed by the time they kick off. The Open at Portrush will still be a week away. The rest of the Betfred card will unfold over the rest of the weekend, up against Wimbledon and cricket World Cup finals.

Of course, Hearts and United won’t be the first Scottish clubs to play a competitive match this season. Our European entrants will get that honour earlier in the week, all four beginning the long journey that they hope will take them to the group stage of either the Champions League or the Europa League.

Summer football, then, has arrived in Scotland by stealth. Even before the traditional pursuits of the warmest season of the year have finished – cricket, golf, and tennis – we will have Scottish football bursting back on to the scene and demanding our attention.

The decision a few years ago to re-introduce a group section to the League Cup and have the competition all wrapped up before Christmas was a sensible one. If teams are filling their calendars in July with pre-season friendlies, why not add a competitive edge to proceedings?

Clubs benefit from bigger attendances and tougher work-outs, while television gains from having football to show during an otherwise barren period for the sport. Having no League Cup ties to fulfil in the second half of the season also reduces the burden on tired squads and even more tired-looking pitches.

Why stop there, however? If this has been an extended trial to see if playing competitive matches earlier in the summer works then it is probably fair at this point to say it does. Fans, players and managers for the most part don’t enjoy friendlies, games of little consequence and usually played at a pedestrian pace.

So why not play league games at that point instead? Return the League Cup to a straight knock-out competition played in midweek and place the SPFL league season in the weekend slots instead. Because of Euro 2020 we are already having a situation where the Scottish Cup final needs to be played several weeks earlier next May to allow preparation work to begin at Hampden. An earlier start to the league campaign would have ensured the cup final was still the climax to the season.

The winter break in the Premiership has given players a much-needed mid-season breather. But it has come at a cost. To earn their three-week break in January, clubs need to cram in a ridiculous numbers of fixtures the month before.

Last December Celtic played nine matches including a cup final, a key European tie, and an Old Firm derby. No wonder they needed a New Year rest. Most other Premiership clubs had similarly heavy schedules. Having an extra month to play league fixtures ought to ease that burden going forward while, hopefully, also allowing for an earlier finish to the season.

With those involved in European competition having to return to training before the school holidays have even started, a late April/early May denouement would allow those players a couple of extra weeks’ off before the grind begins in earnest.

Sky Sports would surely welcome that development, too. As they prepare for the start of their five-year exclusive deal to show SPFL league games from season 2020/21, being able to show live league matches while English football is still on its holidays would hold huge appeal for the broadcaster.

Traditionalists will bemoan the intrusion of football into their summer lives but we are halfway there already. Adding league games to the calendar in July is only the next logical step.

Of course, the more dramatic alternative is also still on the table. There remain advocates that a country this far north of the Equator shouldn’t be playing throughout the winter at all. Moving to a summer calendar and playing from March to November would remove that prospect and, in theory, would also mean those teams involved in European competition would be well in their stride by the time the qualifiers roll around.

There would be downsides, of course. Should the Scotland national men’s team ever reach a major finals again, then the league would probably need to take a summer recess. And there could be the slightly farcical situation if winter were to take an early grip and the run-in to the end of the league season and possibly also the Scottish Cup final were delayed by weather-related postponements.

Opponents of the idea will also point out that there is no consistency to the Scottish climate. It could snow in July or be a scorcher in February. And in these globally-warmed times both are true. But it is about playing the percentages. Simply put, there is a better chance of nicer weather in the summer and poorer weather in the winter. And anyone who has ever tried to drag a child along to a match in December could offer plenty of anecdotal evidence supporting that.

Still, Scottish football is hardly renowned for its revolutionary qualities so it probably needs to be one step at a time. And league football in July would be a decent start.