Nicola Sturgeon has backed Scotland’s women’s football team to raise the profile of the sport as she unveiled a funding partnership ahead of this summer’s European Championships.
The deal will enable the national team to train full-time in the build-up to the Uefa women’s Euro 2017 finals in the Netherlands.
Home-based international players in full-time employment or education can now focus solely on their preparations for this summer’s tournament.
The First Minister - who is also patron of the team - welcomed the funding from sportscotland, through its National Lottery stream SEE, and the Scottish Football Partnership.
About half of the squad are expected to benefit from the scheme, which was supported by all players’ employers and educational establishments.
Ms Sturgeon said: “I’m delighted that this funding arrangement will allow our women’s national squad to train full-time ahead of next year’s European championship.
“They have done tremendously well in qualifying for their first-ever major tournament and this will help the squad to arrive in the Netherlands in the best possible shape.
“I hope the achievements of this team will raise the profile of women’s football in Scotland and inspire many more women and girls to take up the sport and attend games.”
National coach Anna Signeul said: “It’s fantastic that sportscotland, Scottish Football Partnership and SEE have come together to support the players in being the best they can be ahead of their first-ever European Championships.
“It’s a strong statement from all three parties that they care about the women’s game in Scotland and are willing to help the players improve.
“We feel we have support from everyone and that will help us going into the Euros.
“To have our best domestic players on the same playing field as their team-mates who are full-time professionals is really important.
“It offers equal opportunity and will stand us in good stead ahead of July.”
The scheme is now under way and will continue until after the end of the finals.
Scotland have been drawn in group D alongside England, Portugal and Spain at the tournament, which kicks off on July 16.
The same approach was used by the Scottish women’s hockey team in the lead-up to the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow in 2014.