The Union Debating Society’s most recent public debate on the motion “This House Believes Intelligence Services are a Threat to Liberty” was an excellent night of university professors and veteran student speakers. The debate featured Dr Ryan Beasley and Dr Faye Donnelly, both of the School of International Relations, accompanied by a lineup of excellent student debaters: UDS co-chief whips Parker Burns and Alex Don, UDS intervarsity secretary Stephanie Ross, and UDS schools secretary Clare Armstrong.

The main argument of the evening surrounded PRISM, the electronic surveillance and data collection effort by the USA’s National Security Agency, with morality, accountability and legality aspects called into question. Arguing the case for the proposition were Dr Donnelly, Parker Burns and Alex Don. On the opposition were Dr Beasley, Stephanie Ross and Clare Armstrong.

Suggesting that the government and intelligence services are not and cannot under the current circumstances be held accountable for their actions, the proposition argued that citizens’ right to liberty is under threat. Opening the case for the opposition, Dr Beasley argued that the government requires the power afforded the intelligence services in order to protect its citizens. The opposition further suggested that pre-emptive actions taken by intelligence services are for the greater good and essential to maintaining a successful and peaceful society.

The debate had quite an intimate feel for the evening, with speakers – all of whom were from the university – debating with competitive spirit. After the opposition closed its case, president Will Lord opened the floor to speeches by audience members. The motion was eventually called to a vote and “This House Believes Intelligence Services are a Threat to Liberty” passed by a large margin.

Can’t get enough of debate? This coming Tuesday 29 October UDS will be hosting a special Halloween debate featuring members of the St Andrews Revue and Blind Mirth. The motion is “This House Believes Vampires are Sexy, Not Scary.” Speakers include Ed Fry, Shayna Layton, Matt Knapp and Michael Grieve. Held in Lower Parliament Hall, the debate promises to be a “spooktacular” good time. As always, it is free for all students to attend and gowns are encouraged but not required. In the spirit of Halloween, costumes are also greatly encouraged. Doors open at 19:30 with a port reception to follow until the debate commences at 20:00.

The regularly-scheduled Thursday debates will resume on 7 November with the motion “This House Does Not Regret the Invasion of Iraq.” The event will be held in conjunction with the Foreign Affairs Society.

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