Sarah Sutton is our Digital Communications Specialist, but in her former role as Media Communications Executive, Sarah looked after the Donald Dewar Memorial Debating Tournament. Read Sarah's blog about her experiences of the competition from different perspectives.

I first heard about the Donald Dewar Memorial Debating Tournament (#DewarDebate) when I joined the Law Society’s communications team in 2014. I helped to promote the competition to schools and the public – sending out press releases and tweeting at every stage of the tournament.

I went to the final to live tweet for the Law Society in 2015 and was so inspired by the teams that I volunteered as a judge the following year!

It’s now two tournaments later and though I don’t work on the debate communications anymore, I’m still a huge fan. I’ve been a judge for two tournaments running and really enjoyed going to this year’s final as a guest (though I couldn’t help myself from comparing my opinion with the judging panel at the parliament!).

As communications support, I got a close up view of the hard work, organisation and enthusiasm that goes into the debate from the education, training and qualifications team at the Law Society. It was amazing to see so many schools taking part from the length and breadth of the country and even if we measured the number of competitors in local newspapers alone, there was a huge amount of competition to see off before reaching the final!

As a judge, I was faced with the challenge of choosing winning teams and justifying that decision with constructive feedback for the teams. The quality of debates even in the earliest stages of the tournament is so impressive and I’ve had to make some really hard choices.

Fortunately, you’re never judging alone and I’ve had some of my own debates with other judges from a huge range of backgrounds and was really struck by the enthusiasm they all had for the tournament and debating generally – I really wish I’d had the chance to do this at school!

As a guest at the final this year, I was able to really get into the spectacle – it’s such an entertaining evening and the finalists are always phenomenal public speakers. They take such complex topics and break them down, build them up again and always seem to get some humour in as well. I was literally on the edge of my seat last night – it’s hard to remember that the competitors are still at school when they all seem so at home in the Debating Chamber of the Scottish Parliament!

Every year, I am struck by the confidence and ability of the competitors – I really think any of them could convince me of anything. The winners thoroughly deserved it (yes – I agreed with the judging panel!) and should be congratulated, but every single speaker last night demonstrated that they are so very, insanely capable, I know they’re going to go far. We can but hope they choose a career in law!

If you or your local school is thinking about getting involved in the #DewarDebate next year, I say do it! I’ve been so lucky to appreciate this competition from so many viewpoints but my biggest regret is never getting to be a competitor in a tournament like this.

Debating is such a valuable skill to have and it prepares you for a future career in so many different ways that I honestly think you’d be a fool not to take the opportunity – even if it’s just to go along to a local heat and appreciate the skill of Scotland’s young debaters in action.

Hopefully I’ll see you there!


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.