ONE of the world's oldest student unions is to host a debate on Scottish independence to mark the 30th anniversary of the world debating championships.

Glasgow University Union (GUU) will host the prestigious event on November 19 in partnership with The Herald.

The evening has been organised to commemorate the inaugural world debating competition, which was organised by GUU in 1981.

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The debate will feature some of Glasgow University’s former debaters, including eight world champions and a world finalist.

The audience of some 500 guests will include banker Sir Angus Grossart, former Glasgow University principal Sir Muir Russell and Sir Kenneth Calman, a one-time chancellor of the university.

Politicians attending include former Liberal Democrat leader and current university rector Charles Kennedy, former Conservative MP Gerry Malone and former Nationalist MSP Duncan Hamilton.

Chris Sibbald, president of GUU, said: “The reputation of the university as a debating institution is unparalleled and unique. At GUU, we train those who are interested in current affairs or politics to hone their debating skills while developing their own style.

“Our speakers, like members of the union, come from a variety of backgrounds and cultures, and this is our greatest strength.

“This debate is an extraordinary occasion because it is [not only] a tribute to an astounding record but the debate motion itself, on an independent Scotland, is an issue of huge national significance.”

Before 1981 there was a series of international competitions for university debating, but no official competition for all nations, prompting the GUU to organise the inaugural world debating competition at its union in 1981.

It was a tremendous success, with more than 100 teams participating, although GUU chose not to take part for reasons of decorum.

Since then however, the GUU has gone on to become the most successful debating institution in the world, winning five world titles, 15 British titles and more than 150 other honours.

The union has also produced some of the biggest players in Scottish public life.

Charles Kennedy was president of the GUU and won the British Observer Mace Debating Tournament in 1982.

Liam Fox had his first taste of public opprobrium after he resigned from the university’s Students’ Representative Council in protest against a motion it lodged condemning the GUU’s refusal to allow a gay students society to join the union. The former Defence Secretary has since apologised for his stance.

The country’s inaugural First Minister, Donald Dewar, the late Labour leader John Smith, former LibDem leader Menzies Campbell and broadcaster and former newspaper editor Andrew Neil also cut their teeth at the GUU.

The Glasgow University Dialectic Society was the original debating society. It was founded in 1451 and resurrected in 1861. The GUU Convenor of Debates must be a member of the Dialectic Society.