Sixteen school teams from across Scotland have won places in the semi-finals of the Law Society of Scotland’s Donald Dewar Memorial Debating Tournament.

From an initial 128 teams, the semi-finalists have won through two successive rounds in which they had to argue, first of all, the pros and cons of banning referendums, and then whether to permit the use of performance enhancing drugs in professional sports.

Teams that have succeeded in reaching this stage are: Banchory Academy; Douglas Academy, Milngavie; Duncanrig Secondary School, East Kilbride; George Watson’s College, Edinburgh; High School of Dundee; Inverclyde Academy, Greenock; James Gillespie’s High School, Edinburgh; James Young High School, Livingston; Kelvinside Academy, Glasgow; Madras College, St Andrews; Queensferry High School, Edinburgh; St Andrew’s & St Bride’s, East Kilbride; St Ninian’s High School, Hamilton; Strathallan School, Perth; The High School of Glasgow; and Thurso High School.

In the next round, as an additional challenge, the students will be presented with an unseen motion just an hour before the semi-final debates begin.

The semi-finals take place in March, with the winners going through to the final in the debating chamber of the Scottish Parliament on Thursday 8 June.

The Society provides the first prize of £1,000 and the top two schools will share educational books to the value of £500 donated by the event sponsor, Hodder Gibson.

Heather McKendrick, head of careers and outreach at the Society, commented: “The semi-finals are really exciting for everyone involved and the tension is mounting for the pupils taking part. Not only is there more at stake, but the teams only get sight of the motion an hour before the debate kicks off. No newspapers, computers or smartphones are allowed in that final hour, which in this age of 24 hour digital information, really challenges the pupils and tests their skills as debaters."