Walk past one of Scotland's parks on a hot summer's day and their popularity is abundantly clear.

The scent of barbecue wafts across the grass, mingling with the shouts of friends playing ball games, and everywhere people lie in the sun, reading, chatting, snoozing and simply gazing up at the sky.

Too often in the past, this fabulous common resource was simply wasted through lack of good management and maintenance. Some parks got reputations as hang-outs for gangs or drug users, and the sight of broken equipment in children's playgrounds was all too common. However, huge efforts have been made all over the country to make parks feel safe and inviting, and they have paid off. A record number of Scotland's parks are now flying the Green Flag, a symbol indicating a park has met the highest standards. Dumfries and Galloway, North Lanarkshire and Stirling get special mention for having parks that feature on the list for the first time.

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This has been a remarkably sunny summer so far and the nation's parks are thronged, proving all that effort by parks managers has been thoroughly worthwhile.