Following complaints from Buddhist leaders and a public petition of opposition, local media reports indicate that the US Air Force has backed down on its plans for a military gun range near Kagyu Samyé Ling, a Tibetan Buddhist complex in the rolling hills of the Scottish countryside.
Monastics at Kagyu Samyé Ling had earlier called on the public to help support their bid to block plans for a military 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 had 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.
The abbot of the monastery, Lama Yeshe Losal Rinpoche, had said of the plan: “I will do anything to request and persuade these people not to bring firing ranges and shoot animals close to Samyé Ling.” (Daily Record)
US Air Force personnel had used a range, some two kilometers from the Buddhist monastery, for “multiple events within the past seven months” but was “unaware of concerns from the local community,” Capt. Kevyn Kaler, spokeswoman for the 352nd Special Operations Wing was quoted as saying. “We regret the disturbance that this has caused. We have suspended all training events at this area as a result.” (Stars and Stripes, 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 is currently closed to visitors 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.
Planning applications for two high-velocity shooting ranges for military 50-calibre rifles—one at each end of the Eskdalemuir valley—were filed with the Dumfries and Galloway Council. According to a petition opposing the development on the website Change.org, plans for these military ranges were drawn up and submitted to the local authorities without public consultation. At the time of writing on 19 March, more than 20,000 people had signed the petition opposing the plan.
Local resident Hanna Casement, who organized the public petition, said the shooting range would have been permitted to operate year-round, had the local council approved the plan.
“It would massively increase the noise in the valley,” Casement said. “Scotland has a lot of land and a lot of people support shooting, but not in a peaceful valley where there’s a Buddhist temple and where a lot of people come for retreats and care—including veterans with PTSD. It’s like putting a nightclub next to a convent.” (Stars and Stripes)
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.
* Scotland’s Kagyu Samyé Ling Buddhist Monastery Petitions for Peace (Buddhistdoor Global)
Kayu Samyé Ling
Stop high velocity shooting ranges becoming established in Eskdalemuir. (Change.org)
US Air Force sent packing from Scottish gun range after Buddhist monks hit out (Daily Record)
U.S Air Force pull firing range near Buddhist monastery in Scotland (Deadline)
‘Like having a nightclub next to a convent’: US Air Force stops using firing range near Buddhist