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Winnie Ewing, pioneering SNP politician, dies aged 93

Winnie Ewing

Winnie Ewing, pioneering SNP politician, dies aged 93

SNP icon Winnie Ewing has died at the age of 93, her family has said.

Flags are being lowered at the Scottish Parliament in tribute to the trailblazing politician.

Ewing, nicknamed "Madame Ecosse", is the mother of MSPs Fergus and Annabelle Ewing and made history during her career.

The lawyer is the only person to have served as an MP, MSP and MEP and rose to prominence after winning the 1967 Hamilton by-election for the SNP, uttering the famous words: "Stop the world; Scotland wants to get on."

Born in Glasgow in 1929, Ewing joined the SNP in 1946 and served as its president from 1987 to 2005.

That role followed many others in a career which saw her defeat then-Scottish secretary Gordon Campbell to become MP for Moray and Nairn in 1974.

Ewing was also a Member of the European Parliament from 1975-99, during which time the name "Madame Ecosse" was born.

She became one of the first cohort of Members of the Scottish Parliament in 1999, serving until 2003, and it was Ewing who said at the opening ceremony: "I want to begin with the words that I have always wanted either to say, or hear someone else say - the Scottish Parliament, which adjourned on March 25, 1707, is hereby reconvened'."

Former first minister Nicola Sturgeon said she was "heartbroken" by the loss of the mother-of-three, tweeting: "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. She was a master of the art of campaigning and it was a privilege to learn from her.

"Today, Scotland has lost one of her foremost patriots and champions, @theSNP and the independence movement have lost a beloved icon, and @FergusEwingSNP @aewing4Cbeath and Terry have lost their mum. My condolences to them and the wider family. Thank you #madameecosse."

In a statement, the Ewing 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 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."

Alba party leader Alex Salmond said he "never forgot the lessons" Ewing taught him as a young politician. The former first minister called her "the most influential Scottish nationalist of the 20th century", saying: "Many politicians adapt to the climate. Few make the political weather. Winnie Ewing was one of those."

In an interview with Holyrood in November, Fergus Ewing said his mother was "pretty superhuman". He said: "Wherever I go in Scotland, very often people come up to me and say, 'oh, I remember Winnie at Hamilton' or 'I was there when your mum won' and so on. She did make an impact on people, far more so than most politicians that you know now."

On his childhood, he said: "I’d go and listen to her speeches and they were very, very powerful, in a way that very few people before or since can master."

Douglas Ross, leader of the Scottish Conservatives, said: "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."

Lib Dem MP Alistair Carmichael said she had "a drive and determination and a sense of fun which meant that even those who disagreed with her still held her in respect and affection".

In a statement to the Scottish Parliament, Presiding Officer Alison Johnstone described Ewing as an "inspiring and hugely influencial politician."

Deputy Scottish Labour leader Jackie Baillie said: "There is no doubt that Winnie Ewing's contribution to Scotland and to this parliament is immense and I remember well listening to her as the very first person to speak and open this parliament."

First Minister Humza Yousaf commented: "I am heartbroken at this loss, and my condolences go to Winnie's family, particularly her three children, Fergus, Annabelle and Terry.

"No words can truly capture the unique and unparalleled contribution that Winnie made to Scotland and Scottish politics. Her work over many decades – including in the UK, European and Scottish Parliaments – shaped the modern nation we have today.

"Without Winnie – without her breakthrough by-election victory in Hamilton in 1967, her dedication to the cause of Scottish independence, and her promotion of Scotland’s interests in Europe over many years – the SNP would never have achieved the success we have, and self-government for Scotland would never have become the priority it did.

"Winnie was a pioneer and a patriot, and there were so many aspects to her life and work that I hope will get the recognition they deserve in the days to come.

"Not just the SNP and independence supporters, but people across Scotland will mourn Winnie’s death. The nation will feel her loss, which will of course be felt most keenly by her family and many friends all around the world.

"From the bottom of my heart, I say thank you, Madame Écosse, for your service to our party, our movement and our country."

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