A Beautiful Scotland judge has criticised Fife Council for slashing its spending on floral displays.
Dr Stan da Prato spoke out against the budget cuts by a local authority he described as respected UK-wide for its support of community horticulture.
He warned the kingdom could return to concrete and grass for the sake of saving £130,000 this year.
The council is to reduce spending on high amenity bedding by £470,000 over the next three years, affecting colourful displays in parks and public spaces including Dunfermline’s Pittencrieff Park, Ravenscraig and Beveridge parks, in Kirkcaldy, and Letham Glen, in Leven.
Mr da Prato, who judges communities across Scotland for the annual bloom competition, urged it to reverse the decision.
He said: “A series of awards at the highest levels in Beautiful Scotland and Britain in Bloom have enhanced Fife’s public profile.
“The cut to the bedding plants could see Fife return to the days of concrete and grass to make a saving of £130,000 out of a total budget I understand to be £750 million.”
Mr da Prato, also editor of the Caledonian Gardener, said the council must appreciate the value of the modest investment in hanging baskets, planters and flower beds admired by those who live, work and holiday in the region.
He said: “Attractive horticulture can boost the local economy as visitors come to view the floral displays, then spend time and money in the shops and cafes.”
Floral displays have positive benefits on people’s health and well-being of local people, he claimed, and increased civic pride was proven to reduce crime and anti-social behaviour such as vandalism and littering.
The council has admitted that parks will suffer and could lose prized green flags, while hard-working community groups could lose out in contests such as Beautiful Scotland.
As The Courier revealed the cuts earlier this month, Burntisland, Kinghorn and Western Kirkcaldy councillor George Kay warned the council could face a similar backlash to when it announced libraries were to close.
Service manager Damien Woods, said his department had to save £1.4m, and added: “We fully recognise the value of green urban spaces and we are working hard to ensure that Fife continues to be an attractive place to live and visit.
“We already have all the plants we need for the coming year so high amenity planting in parks, roundabouts and hanging baskets won’t be affected just yet.
“However, we have a saving of £1.4m to implement and that will have an impact on how we present and maintain our open spaces.
“Our focus will be on looking at how we can continue to do things differently.
“We will need to increase our use of perennial planting, perhaps grassing over some bedding areas, or a mix of shale gravel and plants so that these areas cost less to maintain.
“There may also be some scope for one-off support for some bedding areas through local community planning budgets.”