Winnie Ewing

Winnie Ewing

Dr Winifred Margaret 'Winnie' Ewing (born 10 July 1929) is a prominent Scottish National Party (SNP) politician, and was formerly a Member of Parliament (MP), Member of the European Parliament (MEP) and Member of the Scottish Parliament (MSP).

She became active in campaigning for Scottish independence through her membership of the Glasgow University Scottish Nationalist Association, and came to prominence in 1967 when she won the watershed Hamilton by-election as the Scottish National Party (SNP) candidate. A practising solicitor at the time of her election, she proved to be a sound choice as her eloquence and ability bolstered a hard-fought SNP campaign and saw her through to victory. She was also helped on to victory by a team of enthusiastic helpers, none more so than her hardworking election agent, John McAteer. She famously said at the time of her election, 'stop the world, Scotland wants to get on', and her presence at Westminster proved to be a real focus for the SNP with a significant rise in membership being the result. Furthermore, many political commentators speculate that it was as a result of her victory that the then Labour Government established the Kilbrandon Commission to look into the establishment of a devolved Scottish Assembly.

Despite her high profile she was unsuccessful in retaining the Hamilton seat at the 1970 General Election, but she managed to be re-elected to Westminster at the February 1974 Election for Moray and Nairn, and held her seat in the repeat election in October of the same year. She first became an MEP in 1975, at a time when the European Parliament was still composed of representative delegations from national parliaments. She ceased to be a Westminster MP after the May 1979 election, but within weeks had reclaimed her seat at the European Parliament in the first direct elections to the body.

It was during her time as an MEP that she acquired the nickname "Madame Ecosse" (French for "Mrs Scotland"). The term was meant to be given in jest and used in a disparaging way by her opponents, but Ewing used the term as a badge of pride and it stuck.

In 1999 she gave up being an MEP and became an MSP in the first session of the Scottish Parliament, representing the Highlands and Islands. As the oldest member it was her duty to preside over the opening of the Scottish Parliament, a session she opened with the famous words, 'The Scottish Parliament, adjourned on the 25th day of March in the year 1707, is hereby reconvened'.

During the controversy that arose in the early years of the Scottish Parliament surrounding proposals to repeal Clause 28 (a law banning the active promotion of homosexuality in schools) she joined her son Fergus Ewing in abstaining, although her daughter in law Margaret Ewing supported repeal as did the majority of her party's MSPs.

In 2003 she lost her husband, Stewart Ewing, in a fire accident. He had been active with her in politics for many years, and had himself served as an SNP councillor for the Summerston area in Glasgow. The same year she lost her husband she stood down from being an MSP, although she continued to serve as the SNP's President, a position she held for many years.

On 15 July 2005 she announced she would be stepping down as President of the Scottish National Party at its September Conference, bringing to an end her 38 year career in representative politics.

Her son Fergus Ewing serves as SNP MSP, as did his late wife Margaret Ewing, whilst her daughter Annabelle Ewing was an SNP MP.

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