Stromness Businesses

Stromness Debating Society

Phemie Matheson



The Stromness Debating Society was formed in 1953 and, approaching its golden jubilee, continues as it has always done to provide its members, guests and visitors with a vibrant, entertaining and enjoyable arena for discussion on a wide range of topics.

Formed with the objectives of promoting and encouraging debate and, through that the support of charitable causes operating within Orkney, the Society has hosted debates on a diverse range of local, national and global issues. The debates are always well prepared and delivered in an informative persuasive manner, sometimes laced with humour and always presented with good grace.

The opening debate in November 1953 was on the motion that "The popular press is a menace," a subject continuing to attract colourful views today. Over the years members and visitors have enjoyed debates on motions ranging from religion and morality through tourism, sport, health and gender issues to the recent and very topical motion that "Orkney's place is within an independent Scotland." This motion, recorded and broadcast by Radio Orkney, was debated very ably by six students of Stromness Academy and Kirkwall Grammar School in November this year and was well received by an appreciative audience.
First constituted with men only, the society saw its first women welcomed as guests in 1959 when the motion debated was " A little learning is dangerous and modern education worse," a debate that saw the first ever tied vote. The first woman became a member in 1998 when Mrs Iris Clyde joined the Society.

Whilst many of the speakers are drawn from its members, the Society is always eager to welcome visiting speakers, particularly when the debate would be aided by a speaker's unique or specialist knowledge of the subject to be debated. Keen to ensure that debates are always richly fresh, entertaining and offer a range of informed opinion, we have attracted MPs, MSPs, local councillors, educationalists, health professionals, sports enthusiasts, students and many members of the local community who have all given memorable contributions. Some members will remember the participation of the then Orkney and Shetland MP and Liberal Party leader Jo Grimmond proposing the motion that "Orkney's choice of a liberal MP indicates the political sagacity of Orcadians."

The debates, chaired by the President or a member in his/her stead are structured and orderly, but informal and take the following format:-
The Speaker(s) for and against the motion are given a maximum of 15 minutes to present their case. A refreshment break follows after which contributions are invited from the floor. There is no necessity for members, guests or visitors to speak but anyone can however make a contribution. Both speakers are then given a maximum of 5 minutes to sum-up their case and on conclusion those in attendance vote on the motion by a show of hands. The vote is then compared to the pre-vote form completed at the commencement of the evening.

Each season a programme of debates is produced and can be obtained from Stromness and Kirkwall libraries.

Jim Heddle, President 


Stromness Debating Society Stromness Debating Society Syllabus 2012_13 Stromness Debating Society Syllabus 2012_13