Buddhists up in arms as military-grade shooting range sets up near monastery

The deep peace of Buddhists living at a world-famous monastery in the south west of Scotland has been shattered by gunfire from a military-grade shooting range which has set up nearby.

Lama Yeshe Rinpoche of the  Kagyu Samye Ling Tibetan Monastery and Buddhist Centre for World Peace at Eskdalemuir, Dumfries and Galloway, is leading objections to a long-distance shooting range which has set up nearby and which is set to be used by US Air Force special forces for training. PIC: Getty.
Lama Yeshe Rinpoche of the Kagyu Samye Ling Tibetan Monastery and Buddhist Centre for World Peace at Eskdalemuir, Dumfries and Galloway, is leading objections to a long-distance shooting range which has set up nearby and which is set to be used by US Air Force special forces for training. PIC: Getty.

The Kagyu Samye Ling Monastery and Tibetan Centre in Eskdalemuir, Dumfries and Galloway, is now leading protests against the Clerkhill Range, which is around two kilometres from the retreat.

The range started operating last June with retrospective planning permission now being sought by the landowner for the change in land use to accommodate the 2km target range and a cabin.

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Kagyu Samye Ling Tibetan Monastery and Buddhist Centre for World Peace, Eskdale Muir. It sits around two kilometres from the shooting range.

The landowner has been in negotiations with US Air Force special forces to use the range as a training ground, with the world long distance shooting competition due to be held at the site, if planning is approved.

Lama Yeshe Rinpoche, the abbot at the retreat, which is home to around 50 monks, nuns and laymen and usually welcomes thousands of visitors a year, urged those behind the project not to bring the shooting range so close to the monastery.

He said: “Our precious haven of peace and harmony is under threat of being caught in the noise of gunfire, midway between two high-velocity gun firing ranges.

“Thousands of people come to Samye Ling for courses and to meditate. They all feel strongly opposed to this plan. I have many friends from around the world who are determined to raise their voices in opposition to it.

The monastery is home to around 50 monks, nuns and laymen and usually attracts thousands of visitors a year. PIC: Getty.

“So I humbly request the forestry company to please reconsider this plan."

Landowner George Birrell, of Eskdalemuir Forestry, where the range is located, would not be drawn on local claims that US Air Force special forces had already been using the site.

However, correspondence between Mr Birrell and planners at Dumfries and Galloway Council outline his negotiations with USAF special forces unit to use Clerkhill, with a delegation visiting the range.

He added that, if planning was approved, the world long distance shooting competition would bring competitors from “European and USA military and law enforcement” to Clerkhill.

Mr Birrell told The Scotsman: “What we are hoping to attract is interest from groups that would want training on such things as security and counter terrorism.”

He said the remoteness of the site, which would be surrounded by a two-metre fence, made it an appropriate location.

"We are 100 per cent not talking about an infantry battalion turnig up. We are looking at small groups of between six and ten people.”

The site had been checked by Police Scotland, he added.

On objections from the monastery, he added: "It is quite entitled to take its position in a valley as we are.

"We are two kilometres from the centre and I don’t think we are within a distance that would effect their setting.

"The proposal is that we work within normal working hours. I am quite happy to do noise monitoring but I think the noise from the range will be within normall farm machinery or similar to someone building a fence, for example.”

Several nearby households have objected to the plans, along with the Mindfulness Association, which uses the retreat for training.

A number of letters of support have also been received given the potential benefit to the local economy.

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