The Scottish government is reported to have overturned an ongoing bid to build and operate a shooting range near the rural religious sanctuary of Kagyu Samyé Ling, a Tibetan Buddhist complex nestled in the rolling hills of the Scottish countryside. The final ruling draws a line under the protracted two-year saga that at one point had threatened to see the establishment of a military weapons-testing range adjacent to the Buddhist retreat center.
The Times newspaper reported on Saturday that the regional Dumfries and Galloway Council had issued an enforcement notice on the proposed site at Clerkhill in southwestern Scotland after work was carried out by the range owners, Eskdalemuir Forestry Ltd, to build a car park, target areas, and a toilet block. The council said that the work had been undertaken and completed without prior planning permission.
In a written ruling, Scottish government planning reporter Nick Smith was quoted as saying: “The appeal has failed on all grounds. . . . I have considered all of the matters before me and found none that would lead me to reach a different conclusion. Accordingly, I dismiss the appeal and uphold the enforcement notice.” (The Times)
As reported in BDG last year,* monastics at Kagyu Samyé Ling, the oldest Buddhist monastery in the Western world, had called on the public to help support their bid to block plans for a shooting range near their rural religious sanctuary. The plans would have seen a weapons training facility for US Air Force special forces operating just two kilometers from the retreat center.
The Buddhist community at Kagyu Samyé Ling and local residents voiced concerns that the firing range would shatter the tranquility of the village of Eskdalemuir in Dumfries and Galloway, and pose a threat to local wildlife. A petition opposing the gun range on the website Change.org garnered more than 22,000 digital signatures.
Although the US military later issues a statement indicating that it would back down its plans for a military gun range, Eskdalemuir Forestry Ltd continued in its efforts to persuade the Scottish authorities to allow project to go ahead, despite repeated refusals.
In a letter to the Scottish government, Kagyu Samyé Ling stated: “The monastery and retreat center is dedicated to prayer and meditation and in particular prayers for peace. A shooting range in close proximity to the monastery and the retreat center is detrimental to these religious practices. The enforcement notice is necessary for the protection of Buddhism in Eskdalemuir valley.” (The Times)
“The monastery is a major tourist attraction and the Scottish Tourist Board describes it on the Visit Scotland website as being located in a quiet rural setting. It is visited by thousands of Buddhists and non-Buddhists from all over the world attracted by the peaceful ambience. One of the attractions implicit from the tourist board website is the right to enjoy the countryside and the right to roam without encountering red flags and danger signs and being subjected to loud gunfire. [It] is incompatible with the quiet rural setting. . . . The range is detrimental to the tourist attraction and the enforcement notice is necessary to protect it.” (The Times)
Speaking on plan last year, Lama Yeshe Losal Rinpoche, the abbot of Kagyu Samyé Ling, observed: “I will do anything to request and persuade these people not to bring firing ranges and shoot animals close to Samyé Ling.” (Daily Record)
Kagyu Samyé Ling Monastery and Centre for World Peace and Health was founded southwestern Scotland in 1967 by Tibetan lamas and refugees Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche and Akong Tulku Rinpoche, who named the complex after first monastery established in Tibet. The site now includes the largest Buddhist temple in Western Europe and is home to some 60 resident monastics and lay volunteers.
Kagyu Samyé Ling has an an associated community on Scotland’s Holy Isle, which includes the Centre for World Peace and Health and a retreat center for Buddhist nuns. Since its founding, Samyé Ling has established centers in more than 20 countries, including Belgium, Ireland, Poland, South Africa, Spain, and Switzerland. Although the monastery has been closed to visitors for an extended period due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the complex receives tens of thousands of visitors each year under normal circumstances. Notable visitors have included the English musician David Bowie, Scottish comedian Billy Connolly, and Canadian singer and Zen Buddhist Leonard Cohen.
The earliest Buddhist influences in Scotland arrived some 150 years ago through British colonial interactions with Theravada communities in Southeast Asia. Today, an estimated 0.2 per cent of the Scottish population of some 5.4 million people identify as Buddhists, according to government census data for 2011.
Kayu Samyé Ling
Buddhist monks win peace in fight over firing range (The Times)
Buddhist monks pray for shooting range shutdown (The Times)
US Air Force sent packing from Scottish gun range after Buddhist monks hit out (Daily Record)
Stop high velocity shooting ranges becoming established in Eskdalemuir. (Change.org)
Related news reports from BDG
Scotland’s Kagyu Samyé Ling Buddhist Monastery Petitions for Peace
UPDATE: Peace Restored at Scotland’s Kagyu Samyé Ling Buddhist Monastery
Scotland’s Kagyu Samyé Ling Buddhist Monastery Petitions for Protection