THE risk of Lyme disease should not be used as an overriding argument against the wilding of grass areas in West Fife.

That’s the view of Inverkeithing and Dalgety Bay councillor Dave Dempsey after a recently-published report revealed there were 31 cases of the dangerous bacterial infection across the Kingdom last year.

Concerns have been raised that as a result of Fife Council tightening their belts and cutting back on grass-cutting, the ‘rewilding’ of areas could see an increase in infections as a result of tick bites.

Cllr Dempsey said: “As with so much else, the devil is in the detail.

“The council cuts a lot of grass.

“It cuts a lot that it doesn’t own, including the likes of Longhill Park in Dalgety Bay.

“Ideally, responsibility for such areas should sit with the landowners. I’ve investigated by-laws, planning acts and various other avenues for bringing that about but, so far, everything I’ve found has been declared unworkable by council officers. So, we’re stuck with the council cutting the grass or it not being cut at all and the right answer differs from place to place. What won’t work is a 'one size fits all' edict from the centre, like the 'no grass-cutting at car parks' instruction last year. It needs local consultation, asking the question: ‘What’s the downside of not cutting this patch of grass?’.

“As regards Lyme disease, you’re clearly unlikely to get it walking across a well-mown lawn. There’s clearly a risk in woodland and other areas that will never be ‘tidy’.”

He highlighted the need for public awareness as well on what to do if they are bitten by a tick.

He said: “There’s a need for the public and medical professionals to be aware of the symptoms and possibilities.

“It’s one of the diseases where early treatment is generally successful.

“The risk of Lyme disease is one of the downsides to be considered but it’s a marginal risk and shouldn’t be allowed to automatically override the upsides of rewilding.”

One of the early symptoms of Lyme disease is the development of a circular red skin rash around a tick bite.

The rash can appear up to three months after being bitten by a tick and usually lasts for several weeks.

Not everyone with Lyme disease gets the rash as others experience flu-like symptoms, including a high temperature or feeling hot and shivery; headaches; muscle and joint pain; and tiredness and loss of energy.

NHS advice is to see your GP if you have been bitten by a tick or visited an area in the past month where infected ticks are found, and you have the above symptoms or red rash.

A spokesperson for Lyme Disease Action, the national charity, said: “Lyme disease is a tiny risk compared with COVID-19 – only on average about 10 per cent of UK ticks carry it, and it gives rise to perhaps 10,000 cases per year in the UK, though precise numbers are not known. Unlike COVID-19, Lyme disease is a bacterial infection and when recognised early it is easily treated with antibiotics.

“Awareness of ticks is the key and will help you avoid this illness and not add to the NHS burden.”