Post on the "Rapid Decline of Scottish Football" published on Gallifrey Base, re-posted here by request of Jon Arnold.
It's not rapid though, is it?
I mean, right around the years the Old Firm did well in Europe, they were losing to Kaunas, Artmedia, and even a decade ago to Basel, Zizkov, etc. Aberdeen might pull off a memorable run, but then they don't qualify for Europe for a few seasons. Views on Europe tend to change via manager. Walter Smith always viewed Europe as a distraction until he started to do well at it. Mark McGhee, as noted before, claims to have put no effort into studying how Sigma played, and lost 8-1. On the other hand, Craig Brown could tell you more about Aalesund than their fans before Motherwell beat them in Europe. So competent managers and a lack of them is a big part, probably.
Look at Celtic. Ten years ago they had the financial clout to sign good players on big wages, and O'Neills men wiped the floor with most in Scotland, and produced great results in Europe. Strachan came in with less money and less respect, but was a good manager and they managed to do better in the CL after a nightmare start. He was removed anyway for not being "Celtic minded".
So now they have not a top class manager with not a top class squad. And that self-fufilling prophecy about away days in Europe. It wasn't even that prevalent 10 years ago, they beat Blackburn and Liverpool away in the UEFA Cup. But the press kept going about "No away wins", then suddenly the team and fans were, then its come to, any away game, they could lead and they fall apart. Its like England penalties. Once you think - "Oh we always lose these" you've lost mentally. Couple this with Fortress Parkhead being torn apart by a string of bad defeats, and now Celtic have no fear factor whatsoever. Once a team don't have a fear factor about them, they can be proved quite ordinary. Hell, look how bad Chelsea looked at times last season...then think of a team without that level of quality player.
Rangers have always been hopeless in Europe, with the odd year where things go well. For every 2008 Cup final, there is a Zizkov. Even the "nine in a row" side when they had a side who could beat the Premiership champions (and did) were ousted by AEK, Levski, Steaua, Grasshopper and Goteborg, none of them top class sides in the 90s.
Hearts are a mess. Dictatorial owner, managerial-go-round, players sacked then brought back, that they havent exploded yet is surprising. Makes me wonder how bad Tromso were, to be heavily beaten by a side who were heavily beaten by Hearts!
Dundee United did the plucky "brave defeat" thing, and were 2 things away from victory, as I mentioned here. Even at the end, they could have won, but missed an open goal, and if you miss those chances you go out. Last year they had the bad luck of drawing AEK Athens, and even then only went out 2-1 against a far superior side.
Motherwell did some good results - added 11 points to the Scottish Coefficient in the last 3 years, which is pretty impressive for a lower ranked Scottish side! - but again, their kids were outclassed in the Final Qualifying Round. Once by Steaua, once by Odense. The same Odense who just kicked Panathinaikos out of the CL and are currently beating Villarreal. Again, plucky, but too big a gulf.
Hibs never show as good as they might think they wish to be.
The rest show up in Europe once in a blue moon, are utterly inexperienced at that level, and inexperience is a massive killer as much as gulf in class. 9/10 surprise exits (Hi Mainz!) comes through team inexperience at European level, that's why we remember those who had impressive debut runs, because they are in a minority.
The bits below the Old Firm happen all the time. Nothing new here, really. Unless these sheiks suddenly decide to take over some Scottish sides, we wont see a change.
And given we have such a rubbish league format (3 x 11, and league split) and a closed league/non-league format, the chances of that happening - beyond the obvious - are slim to none.