Pupils from across the nation hold EU debate on vote for 16 year olds

Hundreds of secondary school pupils from across Scotland and the north of England gathered for Heriot-Watt University's annual multilingual debate, showcasing the talents of interpreting and translation students.

The event gave pupils a taste of what happens during a European Union debate, with high-profile diplomats' arguments being translated simultaneously by Heriot-Watt University students.

The morning's motion for debate "This house believes that giving the vote to sixteen and seventeen year olds is more trouble than it is worth" was particularly timely for young Scots with those ages set to be given the vote in the 2014 Referendum on Scottish Independence.

The motion was debated by Consuls General from Germany, France and Spain, and Heriot-Watt students translated arguments between the three consuls and then back into English and British Sign Language (BSL) for the pupils. It was passed by 56% to 44% in the hall and by 100% by voters on-line.

The cult of celebrity was up for debate in the afternoon, with Joaquín Moreno of the Spanish Ministry for Education and Dr Xiaobai Shen, University of Edinburgh, testing students' ability to translate from Spanish to Chinese or Arabic on issues that ranged from press intrusion to the Kardashian family.

Dr Bernie O'Rourke, coordinator of the Multilingual Debate, said, "The Multilingual Debate is a true celebration of linguistic diversity. The enthusiasm with which the audience participates in the debate year after year shows a lively interest in learning languages and understanding different cultures.  

"Demand for interpreters and translators with English as their native language is strong - 89.9% of graduates from our degree programme went straight into employment or further study last year, and our graduates have gained posts with organisations such as the European Union, United Nations, Reuters and the International Olympic Committee

"Events like this spark pupils' interest in modern languages, which is crucial at a time when their study is in decline at Scottish schools - despite growing demand for these skills from employers."