Plans to restructure the league system in Scotland have broken down following a meeting of Scottish Premiership clubs.
A discussion was held on Friday, with talks centred around proposals to revert to a three-division model from next season as part of a wider response to the coronavirus disruption.
A suggested split of 14 teams apiece in the top two flights would have preserved Hearts’ Premiership status, as well as guaranteeing Inverness’ promotion, while a 16-team third tier would have made room for Brora Rangers and Kelty Hearts.
The idea has now run aground after failing to win favour among the country’s leading clubs, with the 15-person task force which had been looking into it disbanded.
As a result Partick Thistle and Stranraer’s respective relegations from the Championship and League One are confirmed, with Hearts set to follow should the Premiership season not resume.
Aberdeen chairman Dave Cormack, speaking on behalf of those involved in Friday’s talks, said: “Today’s meeting of the Premiership clubs was constructive, with a full and open discussion on reconstruction.
“The strong feeling of the group was that we must focus all of our energies on emerging from the crisis we face, due to the pandemic, on getting back to playing football safely and getting fans back into grounds as soon as practicably possible.
“Whilst the group sympathises with the plight of the situation the relegated teams are faced with, it concluded that this is not the right time to consider immediate reconstruction in the midst of a crisis. But the group is willing to engage in and pick up on these discussions once we are through Covid-19.”
Among those to be adversely affected by the news are Highland League champions Brora Rangers and Lowland counterparts Kelty Hearts, who stood to earn a place in an expanded 16-strong third tier.
A statement issued by the Highland League criticised the manner of developments.
“Today’s news that the current work towards SPFL League Reconstruction has been brought to an abrupt and arbitrary halt is disappointing and frustrating in equal measure,” it read.
“This year, albeit in difficult circumstances, the SPFL had its first opportunity since the introduction of the Scottish Football Pyramid to meaningfully embrace the spirit of the pyramid. It is a matter of great regret that the SPFL has chosen to turn away from that.
“All associated with the Highland League share the undoubted disenchantment that will be felt by Brora Rangers and Kelty Hearts.”
Inverness, Falkirk and Edinburgh City, runners-up in their respective divisions, will also rue a lost opportunity, with each club having been slated to move up a league had the reconstruction been approved.
Meanwhile, League Two side Albion Rovers announced manager Kevin Harper had left his role.
The club said they were “unable to agree mutually acceptable terms” with Harper on a contract extension.