Winnie Ewing

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Winnie Ewing
President of the Scottish National Party
In office
1987 – September 2005
Preceded by Donald Stewart
Succeeded by Ian Hudghton
Member of the Scottish Parliament
for Highlands and Islands
In office
6 May 1999 – 31 March 2003
Preceded by Constituency created
Succeeded by Rob Gibson
Member of the European Parliament
for Highlands and Islands
In office
10 June 1979 – 13 June 1999
Preceded by Constituency created
Succeeded by Constituency abolished
Member of Parliament
for Moray and Nairn
In office
28 February 1974 – 3 May 1979
Preceded by Gordon Campbell
Succeeded by Alexander Pollock
Member of Parliament
for Hamilton
In office
2 November 1967 – 18 June 1970
Preceded by Tom Fraser
Succeeded by Alexander Wilson
Personal details
Born Winifred Margaret Woodburn
(1929-07-10) 10 July 1929 (age 87)
Glasgow, Scotland
Nationality Scottish
Political party Scottish National Party
Spouse(s) Stewart Martin Ewing (m. 1956–2003)
Children Fergus Ewing
Annabelle Ewing
Alma mater University of Glasgow
Profession Solicitor

Winifred Margaret Ewing (born 10 July 1929) is a Scottish nationalist, lawyer and prominent Scottish National Party (SNP) politician who was a Member of Parliament (Hamilton 1967–70; Moray and Nairn 74–79), Member of the European Parliament (Highlands and Islands 1975–1999) and Member of the Scottish Parliament (Highlands and Islands 1999–2003). Her election victory in 1967 was a significant by-election in Scottish political history and began a surge of support for the SNP.[1][2] She was the Scottish National Party President from 1987-2005.

Early life[edit]

Born Winifred Margaret Woodburn in Glasgow, she was educated at Battlefield School and Queen's Park Senior Secondary School. In 1946 she matriculated at Glasgow University where she earned an MA and studied for an LLB. Though not very active in politics at that time, she joined the Student Nationalists. After graduation she qualified and practised as a solicitor and notary public. She was Secretary of the Glasgow Bar Association from 1962–67.[3]

Political biography[edit]

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.[4][5] 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, among them her election agent, John McAteer. On 16 November she made her first appearance at Westminster, with her husband and children accompanied her on the journey.[6] She arrived at the parliament in a Scottish-built Hillman Imp and was greeted by a crowd and a pipe band.[7] She 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.[8] At the following February 1974 Election she stood for Moray and Nairn and was re-elected to Westminster, although another election followed in October of the same year. Following the October election she was announced as the SNP's spokesperson on external affairs and EEC.[9] 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 won a seat at the European Parliament in the first direct elections to the Parliament.

She was elected the SNP Party President in 1987.[3]

It was during her time as an MEP that she acquired the nickname Madame Ecosse (French for Mrs Scotland) because of her strong advocacy of Scottish interests in Strasbourg and Brussels.[10][11] That sobriquet was first used by Le Monde and with Ewing using the term as a badge of pride, it stuck.[12] By 1995 she had become Britain's longest serving MEP.[12] She had been a former Vice President of the European Radical Alliance which included French, Guyanan, Flemish, Luxembourg, Italian, Corsican and Spanish (Canary Islands) MEPs.

In 1999 she gave up being an MEP and became a Member of the Scottish Parliament (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'.[13] She sat as a member on the European Committee, then the Public Petitions Committee.[14]

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 June 2001, having turned 72 years old, she announced that she would retire from Parliament at the end of the session.[15] In January 2003 she lost her husband, Stewart Ewing, in a fire accident.[16] 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, and her daughter Annabelle Ewing, who was also an MP between 2001 and 2005.[17]

Outside parliament[edit]

Ewing is a vice president of equal rights charity Parity.[18]

On April 2009, BBC Alba broadcast a biographical documentary Madame Ecosse,[19] produced by Madmac Productions. It was rebroadcast on BBC Scotland in July to mark her 80th birthday.[20]

Awards and honours[edit]

She was conferred with honorary LLD degrees from the University of Glasgow in 1995 and University of Aberdeen in 2004,[21] She was conferred with Doctor of the University degrees from the Open University in 1993[22] and University of Stirling in 2012.[23]

In 2009, a portrait of her painted by David Donaldson in 1970 was loaned to the Parliament and put on display.[24]


  1. ^ "University of Glasgow :: Story :: Biography of Winnie Ewing". University of Glasgow. Retrieved 9 August 2014. 
  2. ^ "Stop the World: The Autobiography of Winnie Ewing: Winnie Ewing, Michael Russell: 9781841582399: Books". Retrieved 2012-01-27. 
  3. ^ a b "Mother Scotland". The Scotsman. 22 February 2007. Retrieved 9 August 2014. 
  4. ^ "No M.P. safe except me-Mrs Ewing". The Glasgow Herald. 4 November 1967. p. 1. Retrieved 12 December 2016. 
  5. ^ "Ewing rekindles memories of the battlefield dispatch". The Herald. 21 September 1999. Retrieved 15 December 2016. 
  6. ^ "Speakers was warmest welcome for Winnie". The Glasgow Herald. 17 November 1967. p. 1. Retrieved 12 December 2016. 
  7. ^ "Crowds Greet Mrs Ewing at Westminster". The Glasgow Herald. 17 November 1967. p. 18. Retrieved 15 December 2016. 
  8. ^ "Mrs Ewing brave in defeat". The Herald. 19 June 1970. p. 1. Retrieved 15 December 2016. 
  9. ^ Clark, William (15 October 1974). "SNP to press Labour on assembly pledge". The Herald. p. 14. Retrieved 15 December 2016. 
  10. ^ Brian Donnelly (23 July 2001). "Madame Ecosse says au revoir to world of politics Winnie Ewing, heroine of the national movement, is to quit and spend more time with her grandchildren". The Herald (Glasgow). Retrieved 27 January 2012. 
  11. ^ "Mg Alba". Mg Alba. Retrieved 2012-01-27. 
  12. ^ a b Ritchie, Murray (8 July 1995). "First lady of Europe. Profile Winnie Ewing". The Herald. Retrieved 13 December 2016. 
  13. ^ "Ross Lydall: 1967 and all that: is history about to repeat itself?". The Scotsman. 15 April 2009. Retrieved 9 August 2014. 
  14. ^ "MSPs: Previous MSPs Session 1 (12 May 1999 - 31 March 2003) : Winnie Ewing". Scottish Parliament. Retrieved 13 December 2016. 
  15. ^ "SNP veteran Ewing to retire". BBC News. 22 July 2001. 
  16. ^ "Winnie Ewing's husband dies after a fire at their house". The Herald. 7 January 2003. Retrieved 12 December 2016. 
  17. ^ "General Election 2010: 'Madame Ecosse' in Perthshire". Perthshire Advertiser. 30 April 2010. Retrieved 2012-01-27. 
  18. ^ "Parity – Campaigning for equal rights for UK men and women". Retrieved 2012-01-27. 
  19. ^ "ALBA Programmes – Madame Ecosse". BBC. Retrieved 2012-01-27. 
  20. ^ [1][dead link]
  21. ^ "Leading Scottish figures to be honoured by the University of Aberdeen" (Press release). University of Aberdeen. 19 November 2004. Retrieved 15 December 2016. 
  22. ^ "600 Scots students to receive Open University degrees". The Herald. 1 May 1993. Retrieved 15 December 2016. 
  23. ^ "Honorary graduates". University of Stirling. Retrieved 15 December 2016. 
  24. ^ "Ewing portrait marks anniversary". BBC News. 12 May 2009. 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Tom Fraser
Member of Parliament for Hamilton
Succeeded by
Alexander Wilson
Preceded by
Gordon Campbell
Member of Parliament for Moray and Nairn
February 19741979
Succeeded by
Alexander Pollock
European Parliament
New constituency Member of the European Parliament
for Highlands and Islands

Constituency abolished
Scottish Parliament
New parliament Member of the Scottish Parliament for Highlands and Islands
Party political offices
Preceded by
Donald Stewart
President of the Scottish National Party
Succeeded by
Ian Hudghton