But for a few moments, the grand banqueting hall of the City Chambers was held spellbound by a 12-year-old girl from Prestonpans.
Grace Warnock won the Editor’s Award for her courageous campaign to raise awareness of ‘invisible disabilities’.
The schoolgirl was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease, a painful inflammatory bowel condition, when she was nine.
The condition means she often has to make bathroom stops when out and about and she noticed strangers often threw her unpleasant looks and nasty comments whenever she used an accessible toilet.
“They didn’t understand that not all disabilities are obvious,” she explained. “I wanted people to have a heart and not to judge.”
Grace’s Sign, which includes a person in a wheelchair and a standing person with a red heart, symbolising both invisible conditions and the message Grace wants to get across, is now in place in shopping centres, airports, sports centres and more all over Scotland. Scotrail recently announced it was installing the signs in all of its stations.
Her success inspired us to introduce Young Scotswoman of the Year, an award dedicated to girls and young women aged 12 to 21.
“I think Young SWOTY is an amazing idea,” says Grace. “Young people sometimes get bad press but we’re not all like that.”
Grace admits hearing her name read out for the Editor’s Award last year came as a surprise.
“I was shocked,” she laughs. “Especially as I was the youngest on the night. The other women had done some incredible things to be nominated. I wish that they could all have received an award as they all deserved to win.”
Winning has meant a great deal to her, she says, and to the campaign she is still driving despite her own health battles.
“Grace has had a tough year, health-wise, but she just keeps going,” smiles her mum, Judith. “She makes us all very proud.”
Grace says: “At SWOTY Anne Ledgerwood, general manager of the St Enoch Centre, promised that she would support the campaign.
“When I visited she had also for information to be visible, so that anyone wondering about the new sign would be able to read all about it, which was great.”
She adds: “Changing the signs is only part of the campaign. The other part is educating others on what it is like living with an invisible disability and why it is important to those people to be able to use toilets without fear of being judged, or worse, abused and humiliated.
“The publicity around SWOTY has raised a huge amount of awareness and really got people talking.”
Grace is delighted to be backing our new Young SWOTY award.
“There are girls out there volunteering, fundraising, caring for others through anti-bullying and mental health campaigns, looking at ways to save the planet and lots more,” she says.
“I’m really glad that I have helped in a small way to show that young women can make a difference no matter what their age.”
HOW TO ENTER
It is an exciting time for SWOTY, with a new venue and a second glittering trophy up for grabs.
For the first time in the event’s 56-year history, in addition to the main award, we will also be crowning a Young Scotswoman of the Year.
In a bid to secure the legacy of our wonderful event, this exciting new accolade is open to girls and young women aged between 12 and 21.
The Young Scotswoman of the Year will be an inspirational individual who has already made a fantastic contribution to Scottish society, helping others, perhaps even overcoming personal challenges along the way.
For both awards, we want to hear who has impressed you over the last 12 months.
It could be a celebrity, or your next-door neighbour; a friend who has overcome personal heartache to help others, or a life-saving pioneer. Perhaps you know an unsung hero who deserves wider recognition, or someone at the helm of a social enterprise, who is using her business acumen for good.
Nominate your SWOTY or YoungSWOTY of 2018 by the closing date of Thursday, January 24, at 5pm.
You can email firstname.lastname@example.org or place your nomination on the website https://newsquestscotlandevents.com/events/scotswoman-of-the-year-awards/
Call 0141 302 6019 for more information.
The winner will be announced at a glittering, invitation-only gala dinner in March at the Grand Central Hotel.