Hearts and Hibs have both been awarded ‘Elite’ academy status as the Scottish FA confirmed bandings for the new Project Brave youth set-up.
The capital clubs are joined by Aberdeen, Celtic, Hamilton, Kilmarnock, Motherwell and Rangers in the ‘Elite’ rank.
Ayr, Dundee United, Inverness, Partick Thistle, Ross County, St Mirren, St Johnstone and the Forth Valley academy - comprising Falkirk, Stenhousemuir and East Stirlingshire - make up the second tier ‘Progressive’ category.
A third tier, ‘Performance’ will be made up of Dundee, Morton, Queen’s Park and the Fife academy (Cowdenbeath, Dunfermline Athletic, East Fife and Raith Rovers).
Ross County and Morton’s positions in the second and third tiers may be subject to appeal.
Hibs’ Head of Football Operations George Craig said the entire staff at Easter Road was ‘thrilled’, adding: “Throughout Hibernian’s history the club has quite rightly prided itself on producing great footballers, and the club have made a serious commitment to making sure this continues in the years to come.
“Lewis Stevenson, Paul Hanlon and Steven Whittaker are the most notable Academy graduates in our first-team, with the likes of Oli Shaw, Fraser Murray and Ryan Porteous all regular features in the matchday squads.
“From Eddie May to all of our Academy staff, everyone is pulling in the same direction at the club and this is not only a sign of the quality work they do, but a testament to their dedication to producing young footballers here at Hibernian.”
Hearts Academy Manager Roger Arnott added: “We are delighted to be awarded ‘Elite’ status because a major part of our overall strategy is to develop young players and it is something we take very seriously.
“The recent inclusion of younger players in the first-team is a marker of our continued commitment to developing talented young players for the benefit of both Hearts and Scotland.
“We look forward to working with other clubs to push the standard of young players and raise the profile of the game in Scotland.”
The SFA’s Performance Director Malky Mackay said: “This is a significant milestone for Project Brave. From day one this has been a collaborative activity.
“We have been heartened and inspired by so many of the positive things we have seen in regards to the development of young Scottish footballers and our aim is to assist clubs and encourage them to hit the highest possible standards.
“No door is closed to clubs outside of the Elite bracket with aspirations to move up.”