It is a subject rooted in science and statistics, but there are warnings that geography is being dumbed down and marginalised under the controversial new school curriculum.

Mike Robinson, chief executive of the Royal Scottish Geographical Society, said crucial "scientific" elements of the subject had been "stripped out" of new Curriculum for Excellence (CfE) courses.

Mr Robinson also raised concerns that many councils were now using non-specialists to teach geography alongside other subjects such as history and modern studies.

And he went on to warn that revised timetabling arrangements in schools - with many pupils now sitting fewer subjects - meant geography was being "diminished" or "abandoned".

"Rather than running this subject down and pushing it to the periphery we should be retaining its scientific integrity, embracing its dynamic and varied nature and promoting the contribution it can make to young people in Scotland today," he said.

The warning comes as secondary schools introduce new CfE courses which have been re-written by schools quango Education Scotland with the intention of modernising them and making them less "cluttered" to allow study in greater depth.

At the same time new National qualifications have been drawn up by the Scottish Qualifications Authority to better reflect the new courses. However, under the previous system, Standard Grades were studied over two years from S3 to S4, allowing seven subjects to be taken, whereas the new courses are to be taken over one year, in S4. That leaves many schools with too few teaching hours to fit in more than six subjects.

Mr Robinson said the combined impact of changes to geography - which has seen topics such as plate tectonics and climate dropped - and the squeezing of timetables had hit the course hard. He said: "Geography has always had strong scientific elements, but these have been removed and the subject has effectively been dumbed down.

"In addition, because of the new school arrangements, teachers are telling us geography is now being taught alongside history and modern studies by non-subject specialists and we fear fewer pupils are choosing it as a result."

A spokeswoman for the Scottish Parent Teacher Council said CfE had been sold to parents on the basis of increased flexibility and personalisation. "Where schools are adhering rigidly to the guidance, the reality has been subject reduction, limiting access to qualifications," she said.

Larry Flanagan, general secretary of the Educational Institute of Scotland teaching union, called for schools to free up time for more subjects.

"CfE's principle of a broad general education means pupils study more subjects for an additional year rather than dropping some at end of S2," he said. "This has the aim of maintaining breadth and facilitating deeper learning, but is hampered by the focus on across-the-board sitting of qualifications in S4."

An Education Scotland spokeswoman said geography was being taught in primary schools and secondary schools, giving pupils a "strong platform" for later learning.

"It is not about how many subjects you take, it is about learning across a range of subjects which offer depth, challenge and choice. The placing of geography within the social studies area of the curriculum is long standing and widely supported."