Scottish Curling has changed its rules on World Championship qualification ©WCF

Scottish Curling has announced that the winners of its National Championships will no longer automatically qualify as the nation's representative for that season's World Championships.

The governing body ruled that along with the performance in the National Championships, other factors will now be taken into account including the team's world ranking, past performance against international teams and proven ability to play at an elite level.

It will apply to the men's, women's and mixed doubles disciplines, with the decision being made in collaboration with British Curling, which runs the elite squad programme that is funded by UK Sport.

It will also impact the selection process for the Beijing 2022 Olympics.

Performances at the 2020 men's and women's World Championships were set to be part of the Olympic qualification process, with teams picking up points based on their final position, but the events were cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

It puts more pressure on teams to perform at the 2021 World Championships, with final rankings now depending on those competitions, giving them double weight in the absence of the 2020 tournaments.

Scottish Curling chief executive Bruce Crawford sees the change as an opportunity to have the best possible team at major events.

"For over 50 years, the winners of the Scottish Championships have automatically become Scotland's representatives at the World Championships, but we are excited to take this step towards more potential success at world level events" Crawford said.

Eve Muirhead missed the 2019 World Women's Curling Championship due to the old rules ©WCF
Eve Muirhead missed the 2019 World Women's Curling Championship due to the old rules ©WCF

"The decision will in no way reduce the status and integrity of the National Championships which remain the pinnacle of the domestic curling calendar, crowning Scotland's national champions, while feeding into the selection process for representative teams.

"Entries for next season's competitions will open in the coming weeks, so we hope this will inform teams of what they can expect before they commit to entering."

Scotland has consistently been the dominant force within British curling, making the top Scottish team the representative for Britain at Winter Olympic Games.

Nigel Holl, executive performance director at British Curling, said the move was "significant and one that I welcome."

"We all love and respect the traditions within curling, but this change will ensure that the best-prepared teams represent Scotland and will have a positive effect on our efforts for the Olympic Games in Beijing in 2022 and beyond," Holl added.

The change comes weeks after top Scottish skip Eve Muirhead criticised the location of the 2021 Scottish Championships, which were moved from Perth to Dumfries.

Muirhead said that the ice at the venue would be different to that of the World Championships and could produce  a winner who would then struggle on the world stage.

In 2019, Scottish Curling sent Sophie Jackson's team to the Women's World Curling Championship despite wanting to send Muirhead's team - one of the most decorated in Scottish history.

Jackson's team had won the Scottish title but Muirhead's team were initially chosen to represent the nation at the World Championships, only for Scottish Curling to perform a u-turn when Jackson appealed and the body found it has not followed its rules.

Jackson's team finished 10th out of 13 teams at the World Championship.