There are currently no laws established to protect places in Scotland from the development of firearm ranges near to places of religious worship or spiritual significance. As a working monastery, Kagyu Samye Ling, based in the Eskdalemuir valley, has first-hand experience of the the invasive and disruptive impact it has on our daily lives and the challenges it brings to religious practices. At Samye Ling, we have a resident community of approximately 50 nuns, monks, and laypeople. Since 1967 our monastery has welcomed people of all faiths and of none, those seeking to learn more about Buddhism and those seeking sanctuary when facing life challenges. The peaceful, calm, and restorative environment of our monastery is one of the core benefits gained by both residents and the 31,000+ visitors who spend time here each year. Visitors from all over the world come here to study Buddhist philosophy and meditation or to undertake intensive prayer and meditation retreats. We host a range of therapeutic and well-being courses that includes Tara Rokpa Therapy, support for veterans living with PTSD, Mindfulness, Tai chi, and Yoga. We also welcome school groups from around the UK who visit as part of their education on different faiths. The core component which enables these activities to be carried out to their full potential and benefit is our peaceful environment that ensures every minute of relaxation and calm is maximised for those using our facilities. However, this tranquillity has recently been at the mercy of oppressive and invasive noise pollution from gunfire. Two, 50 calibre shooting ranges with targets being shot at two miles distance, using military-grade weapons, have been developed on either side of the monastery. Commercial bird shooting is held in the surrounding fields. With no prior warning of when shooting will begin or end, it makes daily life and the quality of living during these periods extremely challenging. The violent and intrusive noise subjects our residents, guests, and visitors to unrelenting gunshots and sometimes we even have injured and dead birds falling into the monastery grounds. As a place of worship and a place offering quiet contemplation and reflection, the onslaught of gunfire is an upsetting backdrop accompanying funerals held here, and an incredibly upsetting disturbance to those visiting their loved ones’ ashes. The authorities tasked with examining these developments have allowed them to continue without planning permissions, under a General Permitted Development Order. As a result, the local community have been deprived of the opportunity to raise objections through public consultation on these developments - the first long-distance shooting ranges to be created in Scotland, outside of Ministry of Defence sites. With two of these controversial ranges operating with little scrutiny, how long before other places of worship in Scotland suffer at the hands of preventable noise pollution? Without careful consideration, regard, and support from the Scottish government, our collective necessity to operate in an environment that nurtures peace, is under threat. If together we can protect the peace of places of spiritual importance and religious worship by creating a firearms exclusion zone around them, then we will enable them to continue supporting and benefiting generations now and into the future.
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