Last week (Friday 7 August) marked the end of four years of hard work for University of St Andrews graduates Alex Don and Ruairidh Macintosh following their decisive win at the European Universities Debating Championships, held this year in Vienna.
After four days of gruelling competition from some of the finest institutions in Europe, the duo, competing as St Andrews’ Team A, soared through the quarter and semi finals to claim victory on the motion ‘this House would treat the deaths of soldiers as regrettable losses of life rather than examples of heroism”.
This marks the greatest competitive achievement of the Union Debating Society (UDS) of all time, as well as the first time a Scottish university has ever won the European title. The competition was a triumph for the Scottish debating circuit as a whole; three teams were fortunate enough to break into the semi-finals (from St Andrews, Glasgow and Strathclyde universities), with Mr Don and Mr Macintosh facing off against St Andrews graduate Duncan Crowe, now representing Glasgow, in the final.
Mr Don and Mr Macintosh have had long debating careers at St Andrews, culminating in their position of joint chief whips for the UDS for the last year. In their final competition together not only did they win, but they also came top of the speaker rankings with Mr Don cinching the title of best speaker overall. This is only the second time this decade that the winning team has simultaneously managed to secure the two top speaker spots.
On their victory Mr Don and Mr Macintosh remain modest. Speaking to The Saint, Mr Macintosh said: “It’s a wonderful privilege to be the first Scottish team to win the European Championships. I’ve had so much fun with the UDS over the last four years and this was a lovely way to end our time at St Andrews.”
Alyssa Muzyk, President of the UDS and participant in the competition as part of St Andrews’ Team C, had glowing praise for the team. She said: “This is a remarkable achievement for the UDS, and we have been very fortunate to learn from [Mr Macintosh] and [Mr Don’s] expertise in years past. We know that the work they have done at St Andrews has set our society up well for future successes.”
St Andrews’ Team C, Alyssa Muzyk and Dan Roberts, finished 41st overall and St Andrews’ team B, Maddie Armstrong and Sarah Bliss, finished in 86th place. There were over 200 teams in the competition as a whole. Four speakers from St Andrews finished in the top 70 on the tab sheet rankings.
St Andrews also sent four judges to the competition, including Parnian Sadeghi – a student studying for her master’s degree – who was selected to judge the quarter finals.
Kyle Blain, who recently took office as Director of Student Development and Activities, gave his congratulations to the society in a comment to The Saint: “I along with the rest of the sabbaticals and the Union staff want to fully congratulate the Debating Society on their amazing success at the European Universities Debating Championship. The effort and dedication of this hardworking group of individuals not only in achieving excellence in their field but also in upholding the longstanding traditions of a world-famous society could not be made clearer. It is an amazing success – well done to everyone involved.”
The UDS will resume its weekly schedule of Wednesday training practice on 9 September at 2pm when it will host its ‘Give-it-a-go’ session, open to anyone interested in debate and public speaking. On Thursday 10 September the UDS will host the first debate of the year in Lower Parliament Hall on the motion ‘This House welcomes the rise of the Scottish National Party’.