Annie Lennox and a former paratrooper are among those supporting a petition calling for a ban on gun ranges being built near places of spiritual importance, including the Western world’s oldest Tibetan Monastery.
Kagyu Samye Ling Temple, in Dumfries and Galloway, has welcomed visitors and pilgrims from all over the world for more than 50 years, but now Buddhist leaders and the local community believe the “peace” in their valley is in jeopardy.
Planning applications for two gun ranges, one 2km south of the Tibetan retreat and the other 5km northwards, were lodged with the council last year.
But after an outcry from the local community and previous visitors to Samye Ling, Dumfries and Galloway Council took legal advice and found the applications were “invalid”. The decision stated that the plans for the rifle ranges would have to be resubmitted as major developments and be subject to public consultation.
Singer and activist Annie Lennox OBE has had a long-standing relationship with the monastery for years. She said Samye Ling is a “Scottish treasure” offering sanctuary from the “noise and haste of today’s frenetic modern world”.
“The fact that a gun club plans to develop two new private firearms ranges literally within earshot of Samye Ling is incomprehensible to me,” she said.
“That such a well-established facility, offering a peaceful retreat could be threatened by deafening blasts of gunfire is just wrong and totally inappropriate.
“I very much hope that the Scottish Parliament will do the right thing and prevent this destructive gun invasion from taking place.”
A new application for the site closer to the monastery, near the village of Eskdalemuir where the US Air Force held training exercises, has not been lodged, but a submission has been put forward for the range to the north.
The firing range at Over Cassock would be operated by the Fifty Calibre Shooters Association, Home Office registered gun club, dedicated to “the demanding sport of ultra long range… competitive target shooting”.
Keith McKenzie, a veteran of the British Army’s Parachute Regiment, said: “When these guys fire the ground shakes.”
After leaving the army, Mr McKenzie became a Buddhist chaplain and organises retreats for veterans to Samye Ling which he calls an “amazing, beautiful and peaceful place”.
He said that the retreats help those who have left the forces and suffer from anxiety, depression or PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder).
He said the sound of gunfire in the tranquil setting of Samye Ling would make it “dangerous” to continue taking groups of war veterans there for fear it could “trigger” them.
“I understand these guys have this want to shoot guns,” he said.
“But I cannot for the life of me understand why they would want to set up a range where they have a monastery where there are monks and nuns who have given their life to the pursuit of being enlightened.”
The petition to the Scottish Parliament created by GP Dr Conrad Harvey calls for legislation to prevent no new firearms ranges being approved within five miles (8km) of an established cathedral, temple, synagogue, mosque, or monastery.
Signatures are being collected until Wednesday. The petition can be seen here.
The Fifty Calibre Shooters Association (FCSA) said it took issue with some of the statements made in the petition to the Scottish Parliament created by GP Dr Conrad Harvey.
The club said the range had been in operation since 2017 and had received no complaints.
A FCSA spokesperson said: “The range is not beside Samye Ling, it is over 6km away and faces away from the monastery. The planning application is to replace the temporary buildings on the range with a permanent one.
“We are a target shooting club, we do not market our services to any military and no exercises have ever been held on our land.
“We have commissioned an independent Noise Impact Assessment which has shown that there is no disturbance to the residents at Samye Ling.”
FCSA said the Noise Impact Assessment would be published when the application’s public consultation website goes live. A date for this has yet to be set.
The operators of the Clerkhill rifle range were contacted for comment.