The first fully virtual Donald Dewar Memorial Debating Tournament, organised by the Law Society of Scotland, has kicked off, with pupils from across Scotland taking part online in the opening round of the contest.

Taking place over two nights, the first heats of the annual debating contest saw 64 teams, from 41 Scottish schools, debate the motion “This House would make voting compulsory”. Now in its 22nd year, the competition is the biggest high school debating tournament in Scotland.

The move to a fully online debating tournament has enabled the contest to still go ahead, despite the strict coronavirus restrictions in place across the country. Challenges have also been presented by video technology and the varying protocols and procedures in each local authority around access to school buildings after the school day has ended and access to tech.

The opening round saw 64 teams compete across 16 heats, with eight heats taking place simultaneously each evening. With no need for pupils to travel, the selection process for this year’s heats was fully randomised, enabling schools from anywhere in Scotland to compete against one another.

32 teams have gone through to the second round, which will take place in January, with further rounds in the spring. The winning team in the grand final next year 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 this year kindly been sponsored by the Scottish Law Agents Society.

Lyndsey Thomson, Careers & Outreach Coordinator at the Law Society of Scotland, said: “We’re absolutely delighted to be able to go ahead with the tournament this year, despite the current coronavirus restrictions. With many schools sadly unable to take part this year due to their extra-curricular activities being suspended, we have worked hard to ensure that as many school debaters as possible could still compete.

“The success of the event is in no small part due to the efforts of our chairpersons who took on the challenge of chairing from home or school under exceptional circumstances. We would like to thank all the debate coaches who volunteered to chair and all the judges who had the tough task of deciding which teams made it to round two.”

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.