Donald Dewar tournament inspires topical debate


More than 100 students from secondary schools across Scotland will attend the final of the annual Donald Dewar Memorial Debating Tournament at the Scottish Parliament on Thursday 14 June at 18.30.

The motion to be debated at the final is: ‘This House would make voting in elections compulsory’.

It follows a series of topical subjects including the right to privacy over freedom of the press and allowing TV cameras in court.

Established in 1999, Scotland’s largest annual schools debating tournament is open to pupils in all Scottish secondary schools. Organised and run by the Law Society of Scotland, the tournament is dedicated to the memory of the late First Minister Donald Dewar MSP, who died in 2000.

This year 128 teams have sharpened their debating skills to come through a series of heats, the final of which will take place in the Debating Chamber of the Parliament.

The four teams in this year’s final are:

  1. Stewart’s Melville College, Edinburgh - James Marchant and Andrew McNiven
  2. Craigmount High, Edinburgh - Cameron Craig and Joe Deans
  3. Nairn Academy - Amy McCann and Ruby Downie
  4. St Andrew’s and St Brides, East Kilbride - Ross MacGregor and Matthew Weglicki

Also taking part in a debate on the floor of the Chamber are students from nine of the 16 schools that took part in the semi-finals:

  • St Andrew’s & St Bride’s, East Kilbride
  • Meldrum Academy, Inverurie
  • Boclair Academy, Bearsden, East Dunbartonshire
  • Craigmount High, Edinburgh
  • St Aloysius’ College, Glasgow
  • Nairn Academy, Nairn
  • The Edinburgh Academy, Edinburgh
  • Stewart’s Melville College, Edinburgh
  • Mearns Castle High, Newton Mearns, East Renfrewshire

Deputy Presiding Officer John Scott MSP said:

“The decisions made in our Chamber impact on the young people of Scotland now and for years to come. This annual debating competition gives students the chance to have their voices heard on the topics affecting them. It also offers some of them the opportunity to practice the oratory skills that might well see them elected to the Scottish Parliament in the future.”

Heather McPhee, the Law Society of Scotland’s education and training development officer, added:

“It has been a fantastic tournament once again and all the teams who have reached the final are to be congratulated, particularly when you consider the number of teams taking part in the opening rounds teams and the calibre of our competitors.

“It’s a real honour be able to host the tournament final in the debating chamber of the Parliament for the sixth time and I’m sure it will be a very exciting and memorable experience for all those taking part.”

The winning school will receive a trophy and prize of £1,000, donated by the Law Society of Scotland, and the runners up will receive £250, donated by the Glasgow Bar Association. Publishers Hodder Gibson, who sponsor the tournament along with Simpson Marwick solicitors, will also donate educational books to the value of £500 to be shared between the four finalist teams.

The judges for the event are:

  • Irene McGrath, Chair of the Scottish Schools International Debating Council (Presiding Judge). 

She will be joined by:

  • Mark McDonald MSP, Member for North East Scotland
  • Adam McKinley, Coach of the Scotland team, World Schools Debating Championships
  • Neil Stevenson, Trustee of the English Speaking Union
  • and Jon Dye, Former Chairman of the English Speaking Union.


Open to all secondary schools across Scotland, the tournament has become an annual event run by the Law Society of Scotland since 1999. The competition aims to promote an understanding of the importance of debate, advocacy and communication to the legal profession, democracy and society at large.

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