Matthew Burton and Michael Dunn from Bearsden Academy won the final of the Law Society of Scotland’s Twentieth Anniversary Donald Dewar Memorial Debating Tournament last night, Thursday 6 June and earned the title of Scotland’s best young debaters.

Matthew and Michael opposed the motion ‘This house believes the Scottish Parliament should have an appointed second chamber.’

To get to this stage of the competition, the students have already tackled topics such as ‘This House believes Google does more harm than good’, ‘This House believes the National Minimum Wage should be abolished’ and ‘The House regrets the #MeToo movement.’

Andrew Spence and Julia Anderson from Balfron High School were the runners up and Kate Quinn and Lucy Halliday from St Andrew’s Academy and Sarah MacKay and Jessica McClure from St Margaret’s School for Girls also competed in the final.

Many of the students from schools across Scotland who took part in one of the three previous rounds of this year’s tournament were in the audience for the final and pupils from Peebles High School, Inverkeithing High School, St Andrew’s & St Brides, Balwearie High School, Balfron High School and St Andrew’s Academy took part in the floor debate. Harry Mackle from St Andrews & St Brides High School and Mhairi Kinahan from Peebles High School were both awarded a £50 book token for the best floor speech.

Presiding Officer, Ken Macintosh MSP, said: “I am always so impressed by the effort that pupils put into this event and this year was no different. It was inspiring to listen to the young people who articulated their arguments extremely well and proved themselves to be skilled debaters. All the young people put on an outstanding performance but particular congratulations to Matthew and Michael from Bearsden Academy.”

First opposition speaker for Bearsden Academy and tournament winner, Matthew Burton, said: “I thoroughly enjoyed debating in the Donald Dewar competition. The quality of the debates has been incredible, and we are both delighted to have won."

Michael Dunn, second opposition speaker for the winning team said: “We are delighted to win such a prestigious debate. I am going to study law at Glasgow University, so this has been a great opportunity to prepare for my future studies and career."

John Mulholland, president of the Law Society of Scotland said: “I have been absolutely amazed by the quality of debate displayed in this year’s final and am delighted to congratulate Matthew and Michael on their remarkable performances. 

“Their success is well deserved and all of the 128 schools who have taken part in this year’s competition should be incredibly proud of themselves. I would also like to congratulate the six other finalists who were more than worthy opponents and debating their way all the way to the final is a fantastic achievement. 

“Many thanks too, to the Presiding Officer, Ken Macintosh MSP, for doing such an excellent job of chairing the debate, our judges who rose to the challenge of identifying the winning team, our parliament colleagues for hosting this tremendous event and of course everyone who took part and supported the tournament.”

Images © Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body

Motions debated in previous rounds included:
  • First round - ‘This House believes that Google does more harm than good

  • Second round - 'This House would abolish the National Minimum Wage'

  • Semi-final motion- ‘This House regrets the #MeToo movement’

Sponsorship and prizes

Law firm TC Young and publishers Hodder Gibson sponsored the event. Representatives from Bearsden Academy were presented with the tournament trophy and £1,000 for their school from the Law Society. Runners up received £250 from the Glasgow Bar Association. All finalists received book tokens and individual quaichs to commemorate their success and tournament sponsors, Hodder Gibson Publishers, donated educational books to the value of £500, to be shared by the winners and runners-up. A prize of £50 worth of book vouchers was also awarded to Harry Mackle and Mhairi Kinahan for the best floor speech of the night.

The four teams in this year’s final were:
  • Andrew Spence and Julia Anderson from Balfron High School (Stirling)
  • Kate Quinn and Lucy Halliday from St Andrew’s Academy (Renfrewshire)
  • Matthew Burton and Michael Dunn from Bearsden Academy (East Dunbartonshire)
  • Jessica McClure and Sarah MacKay from St Margaret’s School for Girls (Aberdeen)
The judges were:
  • Sarah McWhirter, Slater & Gordon (Presiding)
  • Ash Denham MSP
  • Victoria Lane, Brodies
  • Jim Bauld, Glasgow Bar Association / TC Young
  • Andrew McPake, Craigmount High School
  • Jennifer Gallagher, Lindsays

Donald Dewar Memorial Debating Tournament

This year, our annual schools debating tournament will see 64 teams from across Scotland enter the first round, with just one team crowned the winner at the grand final.