Annual Debate with Stirling University 22 March @ 18.00

Thu 22nd March 2018 at 18.00 - 20.30

Annual Debate with Stirling University 22 March @ 18.00


On Thursday, the Club was host to members of the University of Stirling Debating Society for what has become an annual event. President George Morrison welcomed students for this, the fifth debate. He said he was particularly pleased that the enthusiasm of previous years was maintained, and he looked forward to some verbal fisticuffs.  As before, each team comprised a mix of Club and Debating Society members to ensure what was described as a creative balance of youth and maturity.

The first motion, chaired by Rotarian Peter Holmes, was that “This House believes in the legislation of marijuana.”  A preliminary vote (excluding team members) showed a small majority in favour of the motion.  Launching for the motion, Rotarian Allan Macpherson argued that there were compelling reasons for legalisation.  In particular, there would be a significant decrease in criminal activity, saving what he claimed could be as much as £1 billion in policing and court costs.  There would also be benefits from the use of marijuana for medically related purposes.  Where the use of marijuana had been legalized, benefits had been realised. 

Arguing the case against legislation, Ryan Peteranna (Debating Society) highlighted the significant health risks that would be associated with unfettered use of marijuana, citing in particular the likelihood of dependence on the drug, and the potential dangers of psychosis.  While there might be potential medical benefits from legalisation, these would be outweighed by the problems which legalisation would cause. 

Following these opening forays, members of the two teams then joined the fray, with compelling arguments emerging on each side. Then, opened to the audience, the issue obviously raised significant concerns for both sides of the debate.  However, in a post-debate vote, the majority in favour of legalization had increased, with the motion, declared as won. 

Following a welcome soup and sandwiches. Michael Craig (President of the Debating Society) chaired the second debate.  The motion, intended to encourage a humourous exchange was “This House does not believe in experts”.  The preliminary vote, however, showed overwhelming support for experts.  Clearly the onus was on the proposers to change minds.  Jorge Gonzalez Molinero (Debating Society) led for the proposition.  He argued that so-called experts regularly contradicted each other leading to confusion for those trying to understand society, business and politics. Today’s so-called experts will be challenged by subsequent events, as, for example, the so-called experts who argued in favour of the Iraqi war, or economists who didn’t see the economic crash of 2008.  All in all, he argued, there had to be support for President Trump’s assertion that “All experts are rubbish”. 

In support of experts, Jarvie Ritchie (Debating Society) accepted that while experts could, and did, differ, society needed to be informed by people with expertise and experience, able to guide us in all kinds of positive directions.  Without these people, society would be rudderless, losing the opportunities for progress that experts bring.  Throughout history, experts in a variety of fields have led to improvements which we now take for granted.

As in the previous debate, the two teams then locked horns, with a variety of humourous interjections seeking to influence the vote.  When opened to the audience, it was clear that the overall view on experts was shifting, and, when votes were counted, while the motion was defeated, it was by the narrowest of margins.

Rounding up the evening, President George thanked all those taking part for an enjoyable exchange of views, given and taken in a spirit of good humour. He hoped that the Club could look forward to a return visit next year.