Pupils from 15 schools across Scotland have debated their way to the semi-finals of the Donald Dewar Memorial Debating Tournament, organised by the Law Society of Scotland.

Taking place virtually over two days, the second-round heats of the annual debating competition saw 32 teams from 27 schools debate the motion: “This house would abolish the Olympic Games” in order to win a place in the semi-finals.

In a close-fought contest, 16 teams from 15 schools successfully wowed the judges with their arguments and will take part in the semi-finals on 18 and 23 March. This year’s semi-finals will see the return of the unseen motion, where debaters are presented with the motion just one hour before the debate and must prepare their arguments without the aid of smartphones, computers or newspapers.

The teams through to the semi-finals of the Dewar Debate 2020/21 are:

  • Balfron High School, Stirling
  • Biggar High School, South Lanarkshire
  • Broxburn Academy, West Lothian
  • Douglas Academy, East Dunbartonshire
  • Fortrose Academy, Highlands
  • Marr College, South Ayrshire
  • Meldrum Academy, Aberdeenshire
  • Peebles High School, Borders x2 teams
  • Perth Academy, Perth & Kinross
  • St Columba's RC High School, Fife
  • The High School of Glasgow, Glasgow
  • The Mary Erskine School, Edinburgh
  • The Royal High School, Edinburgh
  • Thurso High School, Highlands
  • Uddingston Grammar School, South Lanarkshire

Lyndsey Thomson, Careers and Outreach Coordinator at the Law Society of Scotland, said: “Congratulations to all the pupils who took part in the second round. The standard of debating throughout the heats was extremely high and I’m sure made the judges task of choosing who to go through to the semi-finals very hard. Given the skills on show, we are really excited to re-introduce the unseen motion and see how our debaters take on the challenge for their chance to reach the grand final.”

Now in its 22nd year, the Dewar Debate is the biggest competition of its kind in Scotland and, this year, has gone fully virtual in order to allow the competition to continue during the pandemic.

With online presenting now an essential skill to master, the Law Society offered all debaters from the tournament the chance to polish their skills by attending a training session on how to effectively present themselves and communicate online. This hour-long session, run prior to the second round, was led by professional actress, communication trainer and voice coach Victoria Pritchard, co-founder of coaching company Redvoice, and was attended by around 70 pupils.

Lyndsey Thomson said: “We are delighted to be able to provide this year’s debaters the benefit of professional training on how to present themselves and communicate well online. It was fantastic to see our debaters putting their new skills into action during the heats and we hope to run further sessions in the future.”

Victoria Pritchard, of Redvoice, said: "The training session was a pleasure to run. The audience were really engaged with some great input from the students. This made for a fun and interactive workshop. I hope the skills they learnt will help elevate their debating to the next level."

The upcoming semi-finals will see the teams compete to reach the grand final of the tournament in June. The winning team in the final will win £1,000 for their school from the Law Society of Scotland and the top two teams will share educational books to the value of £500 donated by the event sponsor, Hodder Gibson. The runners up will receive £250 for their school, donated by the Glasgow Bar Association, and the prize for Best Floor Speech has been sponsored by the Scottish Law Agents Society.

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.