A team of pupils from Kirkwall Grammar have today (Friday 22 June) been hailed as the Highlands and Islands' top young renewable energy experts, after the Scottish Parliament played host to the climax of this year's Big Green Challenge debating competition.
The grand final of the competition, which is organised by Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE), saw the finalists from eight local heats debating highly topical renewable energy issues.
The finalists were from: Lomond School; Plockton High School; Shawbost Community School; Kirkwall Grammar School; Aith Junior High; Alness Academy; Charleston Academy; and Lossiemouth High School.
Pupils, Rhiannon Walters, Thorfinn Moffatt and Branwen Bourn successfully fought off the competition to take the title. They have been supported all the way by their teachers, Rachel Stockan and Dr Simon Hall.
The winners are set to visit the Eden Project in Cornwall, whose domes make up the world's largest greenhouse. The runners-up, Kieran Watts, Lewis Hilditch, and Jemimah Morris from Charleston Academy in Inverness, have won an Android tablet device and an Amazon gift voucher.
Miss Stockan said: "The team has done us proud and to have won is just brilliant. We are absolutely delighted to have taken part in this fantastic event and as the judges pointed out, the pupils' hard work has certainly paid off. They have thoroughly enjoyed the whole process - from researching the topics and debating at the regional heats and getting through to the finals here at Holyrood has been a great experience for everyone."
A total of 25 teams from 17 schools have competed in the local heats, debating the motion: "This house believes that renewable energy can help us to beat the economic downturn." Schools have had renewable energy experts visit to help them prepare for the competition. The same motion was debated to confirm the winner of the overall competition.
The judging panel comprised of Judith Patten, Project Director - All Energy; George Baxter, Public Affairs Manager - SSE; Neil Davidson, Public Affairs Manager - Aquamarine Power and Iseabail Mactaggart, Board Member for Highlands and Islands Enterprise.
Iseabail Mactaggart, Board member of HIE and chair of the judging panel at the Big Green Challenge finals, said: "This has been a wonderful experience for the pupils, but also for the judges. The other judges on the panel are all active in the energy industry, and we are all very much aware of how important this young generation is to the future of our renewable energy industry. We were seriously impressed by the incredibly high standards of these S1-S3 pupils, who were debating some of the most complex energy issues facing our world today."
Charleston Academy's teacher, Catriona Fraser, who was supported by Kay Storey, said: "We have thoroughly enjoyed taking part in this year's Big Green Challenge. It's been a fantastic experience for the pupils, and I'm very proud of them for winning second place and beating off some very stiff competition from across the Highlands and islands."
All eight finalist schools debated: 'This house believes that expanding renewable energy capacity will not be good for Scottish industry.'
Lomond School, Plockton High School, Kirkwall Grammar and Charleston Academy scored highest, so went through to the semi finals to debate: 'This house believes that burning fossil fuels is a betrayal of future generations.
The debating competition, open to all S1-S3 pupils across the region, is part of an education and awareness raising programme run by HIE, and aims to encourage pupils to learn more about the advantages and disadvantages of renewable energy developments in the Highlands and Islands.
Participating schools were:
Aith Junior High School, Shetland
Alness Academy, North Highland
Buckie High School, Buckie, Moray
Charleston Academy, Inverness, Highland
Fortrose Academy, Highland
Golspie High School, North Highland
Hermitage Academy, Helensburgh, Argyll and Bute
Kinlochleven High School, Lochaber (competed in North Highland heat)
Kirkwall Grammar, Orkney
Lionel School, Ness, Western Isles
Lomond School, Helensburgh, Argyll and Bute
Lossiemouth High School, Lossiemouth, Moray
Plockton High School, Wester Ross
Portree High School, Skye
Sandwick Junior High, Shetland
Shawbost Community, Western Isles
Stromness Academy, Orkney
The 8 local heats were: Shetland, Orkney, Western Isles, North Highland, Highland, Skye & Wester Ross, Moray, Argyll & Bute.