AN unlikely row between the oldest Buddhist monastery in the western world and the gun lobby has reached the Scottish Parliament.

A petition has been lodged, backed by the monks of Samye Ling in Eskdalemuir in Dumfriesshire, who are striving to protect the serenity that has drawn visitors from all over the world including Hollywood actor Richard Gere.

It calls for areas of spiritual or religious significance to be protected in law from rural shooting ranges within a five-mile radius and is the culmination of a bitter dispute.

Two planning applications were lodged by neighbouring farms to develop commercial shooting ranges in the small borders village.

The Herald:

One, at Over Cassock farm about five miles from Samye Ling, lodged by land owner Euart Glendinning and the Fifty Calibre Shooters Association was seeking to replace temporary buildings with a permanent structure.

READ MORE: How David Bowie almost became a monk in Scotland 

Meanwhile Eskdalemuir Forestry and Cumbria based Gardners Guns, who already operate a game shooting business next to the Monastery, hoped to expand a rifle range, at Clerkhill farm, which is two miles away.

Both applications were rejected by Dumfries and Galloway Council, but on administrative grounds because they were treated as local 'change of use' developments. The latter is now preparing to lodge a fresh application for a major development, which will require public consultation.

Opponents of the latest plan hope it attract enough local objections to stop it in its tracks but are also hoping to attract national support for a petition which has been lodged with parliament.

There is currently nothing in law to prohibit their development of firearms ranges in close proximity to places of spiritual importance.

The petition, which was lodged by a local GP, Dr Conrad Harvey, could have implications for other sites including Rosslyn Chapel in Midlothian, the Callanish stones in Lewis and Dunblane Cathedral in Perthshire.

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The US military had plans to train on a long-range high-velocity firing range within two kilometres of Samye Ling, on forestry land but are said to have walked away out of respect to the community.

"This is our way of life", said Ani Sonam, who was ordained as a monk at Samye Ling in 2013.

"It's a place of worship, it's a place of study for practising meditation. Having gunfire re-sounding around the valley is destructive. We have many visitors, many guests staying who are seeking a place of peace and tranquility.

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"That's been shattered. Knowing these are weapons of war that are being used it doesn't sit so easily.

"One of them has been there a few years. It's become an issue because they are using high velocity rifles with a range of one and a half to two miles, which creates much more noise.

"The proposal is, that all places of spiritual significance or religious worship should be protected by an exclusion zone.

"We are not trying to stop people from running their business, we would just ask that some respect is shown to places of worship or spiritual significance.

"We are not just asking for a Buddhist monastery to be protected, we are looking for all places or spiritual significance such as mosques, cathedrals and places like Callanish in Lewis.

"One of the firing ranges has got plans to submit a major development. That means there will be a consultation period and the public will be able to take part.

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She added: "These ranges are open to anyone to use, there’s maybe a question there too."

Samye Ling, which is home to about 60 monks, nuns and volunteers, was established in 1967 and has welcomed famous names including Billy Connolly and David Bowie – the latter, so the story goes, was so moved by his time there that he considered becoming a monk, until spiritual leaders told him to pursue a career in music.

The Herald:

A spokesman for Gardners Guns claimed their firm was the victim of a "witch-hunt" and said noise level tests had been carried out. The Herald contacted the Fifty Calibre Shooters Association and no one responded to our inquiry.

Nicolas Jennings, who sits on the local community council and has lived in the area for 50 years, said: "This is a huge cultural and social asset to Scotland.

"They have created a particular ambience of peace and tolerance and people feel disrespected. When the US military realised they were causing offence, they said we will go elsewhere."

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “We are aware of this petition and our response will be made available on the Scottish Parliament website in due course. 

“Planning applications are considered in line with the development plan for the area and it is for the decision maker to have regard to any relevant material considerations, such as noise and safety issues, in the decision making process.”

The Herald contacted Dumfries and Galloway council.