Four high school teams are heading to the Scottish Parliament for the final of this year’s Donald Dewar Memorial Debate Tournament, after a round of thrilling semi-finals focused on the topical subject of environmental activism.

The finalists emerged victorious from a field of 16 teams as the tournament returned to an unseen motion and mostly in-person debates for the semi-finals held on 10 and 15 March.

Three semi-final heats took place in person at schools in Glasgow and Dunfermline in Fife, while an online session was held for schools from the Highlands.

The winning schools that will go through to the final in the Debating Chamber of the Scottish Parliament on 9 June are:

  • Dunfermline High School, Fife
  • Hutchesons Grammar School, Glasgow
  • The High School of Glasgow
  • Fortrose Academy, Highlands

The Donald Dewar Debate, now in its 23rd year, is the biggest competition of its kind in Scotland, with 64 schools beginning the tournament last September.

The semi-final rounds of the tournament were debated on an unseen motion, given to competitors just an hour before the debates started:

  • This House supports civil disobedience to further environmental causes

They were required to prepare their arguments without the use of technology, books, newspapers or other external sources.

The motion was inspired by content in What’s New?, a digital resource for Modern Studies from tournament sponsor Hodder Gibson.

Georgia Turnbull, Careers and Outreach Coordinator at the Law Society of Scotland, said: “The competitors did a fantastic job of drawing on their own awareness of climate change and environmental action to further their arguments for and against the motion.

“We heard proposing teams draw on issues such as the School Strike for Climate lead by Greta Thunberg, whilst those opposing questioned the implications of supporting civil disobedience for policing and governance more generally.

“The unseen motion adds extra pressure for teams, but also another level of excitement in the final stages of the tournament. The speeches made with just an hour’s preparation were excellent and built on their performance from previous rounds. Many of our judges commented on the calibre of students in showcasing their knowledge and skills.”

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