SNP trailblazer Winnie Ewing dies aged 93

Known as Madame Ecosse, she was the party’s first female parliamentarian.

Laura Paterson
Thursday 22 June 2023 14:44 BST
Winnie Ewing was a key figure in the SNP (Andrew Milligan/PA)
Winnie Ewing was a key figure in the SNP (Andrew Milligan/PA) (PA Archive)

Winnie Ewing, who was the SNP’s first female parliamentarian, has died aged 93, her family have announced.

Known as Madame Ecosse, Winifred Margaret “Winnie” Ewing is perhaps best known for marking her shock victory in the Hamilton by-election in 1967 with the declaration: “Stop the world, Scotland wants to get on.”

A statement issued on behalf of her family said: “Mrs Ewing, generally considered the most important Scottish politician of her generation, served as an MP, MEP and MSP, and was the first presiding officer of the reconvened Scottish Parliament in 1999.

“She sparked the revival of the SNP’s fortunes, which continue to this day, with her victory in the Hamilton by-election of 1967.

“Mrs Ewing died on Wednesday aged 93, surrounded by her family.

“She is survived by children Fergus, Annabelle and Terry, and grandchildren Natasha, Ciara, Jamie, and Sophie. She also had a deep affection for daughters-in-law Fiona and Jacqui.

“She was a loving and devoted wife to Stewart Martin Ewing, who died in 2003 aged 76.

“It would be appreciated if the family could be accorded privacy at this time.”

Former first minister Nicola Sturgeon led tributes to the “beloved icon”.

She wrote on Twitter: “Heartbroken by this news. I can’t begin to convey the depth of gratitude I feel for the advice, wisdom, encouragement and inspiration Winnie gave me and so many others over the years.

“Today Scotland has lost one of her foremost patriots and champions, (the SNP) and the independence movement have lost a beloved icon.”

Ms Sturgeon’s predecessor Alex Salmond also paid tribute to “a courageous and loyal colleague”, adding he will not forget the lessons he learned from Mrs Ewing’s approach to politics.

He said Mrs Ewing continued to “dazzle” Scottish politics for more than half a century, adding: “Many politicians adapt to the climate. Few make the political weather. Winnie Ewing was one of those.

“Her canvassing approach was legendary, and single-handed she could light up the dreichest of high streets and inject energy and momentum into any campaign.

“As a young politician, I witnessed this extraordinary ability first-hand and never forgot the lessons she taught me.

“Above all she was a Scottish patriot, indomitable in her approach and a courageous and loyal colleague.

“May God rest her brave soul and extend comfort and consolation to Fergus, Annabelle, Terry and all of the family.”

SNP Westminster leader Stephen Flynn MP credited Mrs Ewing for having “laid the foundations of the SNP’s success”, and added: “Winnie Ewing was an icon of the SNP and the independence movement. She will be sorely missed by people across Scotland – and my thoughts and condolences are with her family.”

Tributes were also paid from across the political divide, with Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross, the current MP for Moray, writing on Twitter: “Winnie made an immense contribution to politics throughout her life and was held in such high regard locally as the former MP for Moray and Nairn.”

He said his thoughts are with her family.

Her children Fergus and Annabelle are SNP MSPs, with Mr Ewing previously describing his mother as “superhuman”.

Mrs Ewing was born in Glasgow in 1929 and gained a law degree from Glasgow University, before being elected to the UK Parliament.

Despite losing the Hamilton seat at the next election in 1970, she was re-elected to Westminster in 1974 for Moray and Nairn, and retained her seat in the second election in October of the same year.

She also served in the European Parliament, representing the Highlands and Islands after losing her Westminster seat in the 1979.

She resigned as an MEP in 1999 to stand as a candidate for the new Scottish Parliament, representing the Highlands and Islands until 2003.

Mrs Ewing was president of the SNP until 2005 when she stood down from elected office, however she remained an ardent supporter of the independence cause.

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