An online petition has been launched to prevent the closure of one of Scotland's leading art galleries.

Inverleith House at the Royal Botanic Garden in Edinburgh, which has been a gallery for contemporary art for 30 years, is to close as a home for modern art.

Simon Milne, the Regius Keeper at the gardens (RBGE), has said the institution can no longer afford to run the house as a gallery and it has to concentrate on their core work of horticulture and botanical studies.

The petition, which already has 1600 names, says it is a much loved space that is "deeply valued".

It adds: "It seems outrageous that the RBGE management should seek to close it at just a few days' notice, and without public consultation, apparently with a view to exploiting it for more commercially rewarding purposes.

"Yet the amount of public money invested in maintaining the house as a gallery over the years raises questions about whether the RBG management have any moral right to close it to the public in this way, or have any idea of the sense of loss that will be felt by tens of thousands of people, in Edinburgh and far beyond, who - because of the gallery's unique location - may in some cases have had their first-ever experience of modern art in these beautiful rooms.

"It is difficult to imagine any more appropriate use for this beautiful historic building than the one it has enjoyed over the past half century; and this petition asks all the key bodies involved - the Board and management of the Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh, Creative Scotland, Edinburgh City Council, Visit Scotland, and others - to come together, as a matter of urgency, to ensure that this beautiful building remains open to the public as an arts space and gallery, for the foreseeable future."

It is likely that the House's current show, I Still Believe in Miracles, which celebrates 30 years of contemporary art shows at Inverleith House, from 1986 to 2016, is the last of its kind, featuring work from leading artists including Douglas Gordon, Jim Lambie, Richard Wright, Ed Ruscha, Louise Bourgeois and others.

Creative Scotland, a funder of the gallery, has expressed that is is "very disappointed" at the development.

Paul Nesbitt, director of exhibitions, will be retained, Mr Milne said, and art may be shown in other areas of the gardens - a popular attraction which attracts 800,000 visitors a year - but other uses will be found for Inverleith House.

Mr Milne, who said it had been a challenge for the gallery to "wash its face" financially, added: "These are hard financial times for everyone, and we couldn't afford to sustain it, and at the moment we have to focus on our core programmes, which are botany and horticulture."

Since 1994 the Scottish Arts Council and CS have given £1.5m in funding to the gallery.

Inverleith House applied for Regular Funding from CS in its last round of decisions, but was unsuccessful.

A statement from the funding body said: "The importance of the gallery, alongside the work of Paul and his team, to contemporary visual art and artists in Scotland cannot be understated and its loss will be profoundly felt.

"We understand the financial pressures that RBGE are under, like other publicly funded organisations.

"However, we would have hoped that the value that Inverleith House brings to the gardens, to the public, and to Scotland as a space for art and creativity could have been better recognised and result in a different decision."

A statement from the Royal Botanic Gardens said: "The intention is very much that we intend to retain our reputation as an art venue across the board, be it for botanical art, illustration, performance, photography, sculpture and contemporary art.

"Through this change the organisation will remove the various inevitable financial risks attached to running a high-profile gallery.

"It will also free-up resources to concentrate more fully on its scientific and horticultural research and conservation work and provide greater scope to encourage public engagement with the environment."