Scotland's failures are a result of players not competing at a high enough level in the English Championship, says former captain Colin Hendry.
Hendry said re-introducing reserve leagues in Scotland at the expense of the current Under-20s competition would help the national side.
Gordon Strachan's team missed out on qualification for the Euro 2016 finals.
"When we were qualifying for tournaments, we had squad players at the top of the tree," said Hendry.
"They were either playing against the best in the Premier League in England, or at Rangers and Celtic and playing in the Champions League.
"Some of the squad players who couldn't get a game - like Derek Whyte - were still playing for Celtic and Rangers week in, week out, as well as at a good level in European competitions.
"When you play against better players, you become better."
'Multi-millionaires in a comfort zone'
Scotland last featured in a major finals at the 1998 World Cup in France when Hendry was skipper, and he feels too many current Scottish players are content to play in the Championship in England.
"There's so much money in the English Championship that these players are multi-millionaires," he added. "That's great for them, but the money's so good they don't need to step up.
"They are quite content and quite happy. But the problem is they won't win anything, they won't play in the Premier League, and they won't play for their country.
"I think there is a comfort zone for some where they think: 'I am going to have a great life because of what I am getting paid, playing in the Championship.' But there's more to football than being that happy footballer."
Hendry said Blackburn centre-back Grant Hanley, who has won 20 Scotland caps since his debut in 2011 - when Rovers were still in the Premier League - would benefit from more regular exposure to a higher level of opposition.
"Grant Hanley has the attributes to become a top-class centre-half," Hendry added. "He still has to develop, but when you play against better players you try to combat them and become a better player. Players will get better at a higher level."