THERE’s a battle raging in the United States over statues.

Since the police killing of an unarmed black man, George Floyd, Black Lives Matters activists have been calling for the toppling of statues glorifying Confederate generals, slave owners and colonialists.

In some cases, protesters have taken the law into their own hands and removed the statues themselves.

Most are of little merit, mass produced, and raised not to honour fallen soldiers but to further ideals of white supremacy long after the Civil War was over but at times of civil rights tension.

Predictably, Donald Trump has attacked the protesters and defended the statues.

It’s a new found enthusiasm for art after a lifetime of monumental destruction (he’d smashed a pair of exquisite Art Deco bas reliefs when building Trump Tower, despite promising them to the Metropolitan Museum of Art).

Thus battle lines have been drawn between Trump, defender of monuments to slave owning Confederate generals, and those who think they’re an affront, not least to the descendants of slaves.

The issues seem clear surely? Well, not completely. Many who deplore the statues think it would be falsifying history to remove them.

Some think they should have explanatory plaques fitted for context. Others believe they should be removed to museums.

This is what several ex-Soviet states did with monuments to Lenin and Stalin considered too painful for everyday viewing.

In Scotland, we’ve long been neglectful of our slave owning history. Glasgow’s street names recall some of the most shameful practitioners; Andrew Cochrane, John Glassford, and Andrew Buchanan to name but three.

There’s an active campaign to have them renamed.

And in Edinburgh, the statue honouring Henry Dundas has been targeted. Dundas, an MP, authored an amendment to halt a bill which would have abolished slavery in 1792. Half a million souls suffered continued enslavement as a result.

The destruction of statues by those who wish to purify what went before isn’t a new phenomenon. The Romans destroyed monuments to gods who’d fallen out of favour – something the Taliban were still doing with the Buddhas of Bamyan in 2001.

Even in our peaceful corner of Scotland the fires of indignant destruction once burnt terrifyingly.

In Perthshire, Scone Abbey, a place of worship since the 8th Century, home to the Stone of Destiny, and the coronation site of kings fell victim to a Protestant mob from Dundee whipped into a zealous frenzy by John Knox. Statues were a prime target.

Nor were numerous smaller ecclesiastical sites spared, regardless of their age or distinction.

The monastic community of St Serf’s Inch Priory in Loch Leven was translating Gaelic language charters (perhaps dating from as early as the 8th Century) into Latin in the 12th Century.

When the Reformation rages came, its fate was as brutal as the magnificent Cathedral in St Andrews under whose Archbishopric it fell. What glories must have been lost.

By contrast, little of artistic merit seems under threat now. And preservation but with context and curation surely offers the right way forward.