Mental health counsellor says no to Eskdalemuir rifle ranges
ARMED forces veterans battling combat stress during retreats at Samye Ling in Eskdalemuir will be badly traumatised by the sound of gunfire from two proposed rifle ranges, it’s claimed.
The Tibetan Centre is used by organisations, which help veterans with PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), to overcome their mental health problems.
Veteran Tommy Addison, who did two tours in Northern Ireland with the Royal Highland Fusiliers, regularly accompanies veterans to the monastery for retreats.
His military experiences led to self-abuse but, by going to Samye Ling, he learned grounding techniques and mindfulness which he took back to the Coming Home centre in Glasgow.
He used them there and suggested to other veterans that they also go to the monastery.
He said: “I’m not against gun ranges but I am against it when it’s in an environment like that.
“Honestly, you would have to see the difference in the men. Being there for one week will last them six months.
“They are happy with themselves and not having any problems.
“I’ve seen men jumping onto the floor and hiding and taking cover at the sound of gunfire. It brings it all back into their heads.
“It’s not just about avoiding the gunshots but all the other things going through their heads and it’s very traumatising for them.
“They’ve been in some very bad situations as far as gunfire is concerned. I’ve had sergeants and majors crying on my shoulder.
“PTSD has 15 different symptoms and you need only four to be diagnosed.”
Tommy is concerned that, if the shooting ranges are approved, their use could increase and different types of weapons used.
He added: “Once a range like that starts, it becomes popular and opens other avenues for other stuff.
“As soon as I heard 50 calibre rifles mentioned, I said no. These guns need more gunpowder so make a louder bang compared with small arms.”
Dumfries and Galloway planning councillors are due to consider retrospective planning applications for both Over Cassock, owned by E Glendenning and run by the 50 Calibre Shooting Association, and Clerkhill, owned by Eskdalemuir Forestry and operated by Gardners Guns of Longtown, next month
A petition on Change.org has more than 19,000 signatures calling for a public consultation on the issue. The deadline to comment on the applications ends today.
Eskdalemuir Community Council wants to see the applications rejected and the ranges shut.
The prolonged and significant noise levels are causing great nuisance and distress to the community.
There are also unanswered questions about whether COVID-19 lockdown regulations have been breached by shooters coming from England and how US Air Force special forces were allowed to run military training operations at Clerkhill.
The range at Clerkhill Farm was built in June 2020 and Gardners Guns ran its first competition there in July 2020.
The other range at Over Cassock appeared in 2017 and was operated until March 2020 by Gardners Guns when its operation was taken over by the 50 Calibre Shooting Association (FCSA).
Nicholas Jennings, community council chairman, said: “It’s unreasonable for huge rifle ranges to be set up and run without planning permission and then to try to get consent later without any consultation with residents.
“This is peaceful and quiet area characterised by forestry and farming and its historical and archaeological features, like the Iron Age hill forts and stone circles.
“We are home to a creative community of artists, writers and musicians alongside a large, peaceful Buddhist community.”
Samye Ling, established five decades ago, is of national and global importance to Buddhists and other faith communities.
People come from all over the world to visit, attend retreats and learn meditation and mindfulness.
Tourists enjoy the peace and quiet, walk and cycle, visit the archaeological sites and attend retreats and mindfulness courses.
Businesses, which cater for them, say the ranges will be detrimental.
The community welcomes appropriate development which builds on and enhances the peaceful nature of the area.
The development of the ranges is incompatible with existing uses and detrimental to the development of eco and cultural tourism.
Shooters on the range are using high calibre rifles, of the type the Scottish government hopes to ban, to hit targets and metal gongs over 2km.
Mr Jennings says the planning applications submitted avoid being classified as a major development with the required public consultation.
The planning authority initially told the community council that both would be treated as major developments.
Residents are concerned that the owners of Clerkhill Farm intend to offer the estate for use by the military, internationally.
He added: “The character of this area should be cherished. It’s certainly no place for these kinds of deeply unwelcome activities.”
Residents are now calling on the council and all the area’s political representatives to take action.