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Shooting plans raised at Holyrood

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By Euan Maxwell
Shooting plans raised at Holyrood

CONCERNS raised by Eskdalemuir residents about the use of high velocity guns in the area have made their way to the Scottish Parliament.

It comes amid controversial plans by farms neighbouring Samye Ling Tibetan Buddhist complex to develop large scale shooting ranges.

Currently operating at Clerkhill Farm just two miles away from the monastery, where a community of more than 60 seek serenity, Gardners Guns says it intends to create the “finest, most diverse training facility in Europe” for shooters over the next two years.

The company adds it is waiting for an Independent Range Safety Inspection by Police Scotland.

Furthermore, it will need to be granted permission as a major development by the Scottish Government after plans were rejected by Dumfries and Galloway Council.

And it’s the same for the Fifty Calibre Shooting Association, which has submitted similar proposals to set-up a gun range at Over Cassock Farm, 4.2 miles north of the Tibetan temple.

South Scotland MSP Emma Harper was contacted by monks at Samye Ling and members of the local community who shared their concerns about the applications.

Raising them at Holyrood, Ms Harper asked Justice Secretary Keith Brown when the Scottish Government last discussed the control, use and licensing of shooting ranges and firearms with Police Scotland.

Responding, Mr Brown said: “The Scottish Government is in regular contact with Police Scotland regarding a variety of firearms licensing matters. Officials and police work together to manage complementary licensing systems and to ensure that firearms are possessed and used safely across Scotland. The Scottish ministers have no role in approving shooting ranges. It is for Police Scotland to be satisfied as to the safety of any land where firearms are used.

Ms Harper continued: “Eskdalemuir is home to the Samye Ling Buddhist monastery and many agricultural holdings with livestock. There are concerns in the community about the Clerkhill and Over Cassock ranges, in the vicinity of which high-velocity 50-calibre weapons are used.

“Given that both ranges are operating sporadically under the 28-day planning rule, could the cabinet secretary undertake to properly look into the situation? In principle, would he consider removing shooting activities from the 28-day planning rule?

The cabinet secretary responded: “I appreciate that the matter is of significant concern to the member and the community. I will ensure that my officials engage closely with Police Scotland regarding shooting ranges in Eskdalemuir valley.

“I understand that the police have already visited the ranges in question several times in recent months to assess their safety and operation, and that they plan to do so again in the near future.”