THE Queen's Sculptor in Scotland has compared the removal of the statues from Glasgow's main civic space with the Taliban's destruction of the ancient Buddhas of Bamiyan in Afghanistan a decade ago.
Sandy Stoddart made the claim in a devastating criticism of the city council's proposed revamp of George Square.
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He accused it of sacrificing the "riot of peace, empathy, calm, diligence, philanthropy and tranquility" generated by the dozen statues for "the cause of tents and events, funded by Coca-Cola and fuelled by MacDonald's".
Claiming their removal is both "highly covert" and "to be greatly mistrusted", Mr Stoddart said he had doubts anyone involved with the project had sufficient knowledge of the square's statuary to make such a judgment on their removal and potential relocation.
He said 200 years of history was being eradicated to provide a gathering space for the 11-day Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games.
The sculptor, whose works adorn Buckingham Palace, Oxford University and the Royal Mile in Edinburgh, called on the public to lodge objections with the council on the removal of the statues. The deadline for objections is 4pm today.
The statues include Robert Burns, Sir Walter Scott, Sir Robert Peel, Queen Victoria and Albert, William Gladstone and James Watt and will be removed in January as part of the £15 million revamp. They will be cleaned and restored and either returned or relocated elsewhere in the city. Plans will be made public by the end of January.
Mr Stoddart, a neo-classicist well known for his anti-modernist views, defended both the historic role of the individuals represented, the aesthetics of the statues and the artistic merit and standing of the sculptors responsible for them.
He said: "This civic precinct contains works of art that stand amongst the finest and most historically important statues to be made in these islands. Their removal, even if only temporary, cannot be countenanced, and any protest that this is to be done 'for their own safety' during the much-needed restoration of the square, is to be greatly mistrusted."
He added: "Be certain that the Taliban in Afghanistan target the rock-cut Buddhas of Bamiyan with exactly the same sense of resentment against their perpetual peace, as certain thrusters in Glasgow seek to expel the statues from George Square. The thunderball pace with which the re-design of this already highly brutalised place is being pursued is being led by the central idea of having the statues taken away.
"The statuary of George Square must remain present in the square. They ought not suffer eviction on account of some devious creative initiative pursued in servility to a sports festival  on the one hand, and a superannuated idea of civic-design progress on the other.
"The revolting expression 'fit for purpose' has constantly been voiced by the advocates of statue-felling in Glasgow, and by sounding this phrase they show that they embrace the functionalist ethic that destroys culture."
A spokesman said the council was confident the revamped square "will be a space used and loved by Glaswegians for many years to come". He added: "No decision has been taken on the statues, other than to ensure they are properly conserved."