Congratulations to Peebles High School, as William Adams and Mhairi Kinihan became Scotland's best young debaters after winning the final of the Donald Dewar Memorial Debating Tournament 2019/20 in what can only be described as the most challenging circumstances in the tournament's history!
Peebles High School proposed the motion 'This House would introduce a universal basic income' against The Royal High School on the evening of Thursday 4 June, but in a break from tradition and due to the restrictions in place following the outbreak of Covid-19, school closures and a move to virtual learning and facilitation, the final of our annual tournament took place remotely via video conference. Although we were unable to use the Debating Chamber of the Scottish Parliament this year, we were delighted to include a short speech by Deputy Presiding Officer Linda Fabiani MSP and you can watch the full recording here.
We are particularly proud of all our participants this year, especially those who took part in the semi-final rounds, which were the first to take place remotely after the decision was made to close schools, and the fantastic debate coaches who chaired the heats during these unprecedented and challenging circumstances.
Balfron High School's Curtis McLerie and Finn Thompson came a close second, after proposing against opponents from Fortrose Academy, and were awarded the runners-up prize for a second year running!
Congratulations also go to Thomas Fox and Edie Matthewson, Fortrose Academy, and Laura Young and Emma Shopland, The Royal High School, who battled their way through earlier rounds to compete in the final.
Pupils from our finalist schools, as well as Wellington School, Broxburn Academy, St Columba's RC High School and Hamilton Grammar School, also joined remotely to take part in the floor debates, during which Grace Dewar from St Columba's RC High School won the best floor speech of the evening.
In a newly structured tournament, November 2019 saw 64 teams enter the first round of the competition from 58 different schools across Scotland, all competing to debate the motion 'This House would introduce compulsory national civic service for all 15 and 16 year olds'.
32 teams competed in the second round of the competition in January 2020. This round followed the same format as the first. The motion this round was 'This house believes the BBC should be privatised'.
The semi-finals are always a tricky test of our debaters' true skills, as the motion remains unseen until an hour before the debate takes place and competitors are not permitted to use any materials or devices during this round, including phones, books, computers or newspapers. This year, our debaters were tested even more as the heats were held remotely and we relied on our technology not to fail as pupils participated from their own homes! 16 teams participated in the semi-final rounds and argued the motion - 'This House believes reality TV does more harm than good'.
The 2019/20 grand final took place on 4 June 2020 remotely via the Law Society's 'Bluejeans' video conferencing platform. Our four teams were judged by an expert panel comprising of Adam McKinlay, David Dickson and Victoria Lane, all members of the legal profession and experienced debate judges. Proceedings were overseen by Chairperson, Andrew McPake, debate coach, Craigmount High School, who kindly stepped in due to the event taking place outwith the Scottish Parliament.
The finalists, in a highly-charged and impressively skilled performance, debated the motion 'This House would introduce a Universal Basic Income'.
Winners: Peebles High School (William Adams and Mhairi Kinihan)
Runners Up: Balfron High School (Curtis McLerie and Finn Thompson)
Finallists: Fortrose Academy (Thomas Fox and Edie Matthewson) and The Royal High School (Laura Young and Emma Shopland)
Best Floor Speeches: St Columba's RC High School (Grace Dewar)