Winnie Ewing

President of the Scottish National Party
In office
1987 – September 2005
Preceded byDonald Stewart
Succeeded byIan Hudghton
Member of the Scottish Parliament
for Highlands and Islands
(1 of 7 Regional MSPs)
In office
6 May 1999 – 31 March 2003
Member of the European Parliament
for Highlands and Islands
In office
10 June 1979 – 13 June 1999
Preceded byConstituency established
Succeeded byConstituency abolished
Member of Parliament
for Moray and Nairn
In office
28 February 1974 – 7 April 1979
Preceded byGordon Campbell
Succeeded byAlexander Pollock
Member of Parliament
for Hamilton
In office
2 November 1967 – 29 May 1970
Preceded byTom Fraser
Succeeded byAlexander Wilson
Personal details
Winifred Margaret Woodburn

(1929-07-10) 10 July 1929 (age 92)
Glasgow, Scotland
Political partyScottish National Party
Spouse(s)Stewart Martin Ewing (m. 1956–2003)
ChildrenFergus Ewing
Annabelle Ewing
Terry Ewing
Alma materUniversity of Glasgow

Winifred Margaret Ewing FRSA (née Woodburn; 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 1974–79), Member of the European Parliament (Highlands and Islands 1975–99) 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 is known for saying "stop the world, Scotland wants to get on" when elected to UK parliament in 1967, and at the European Parliament was named Madame Écosse ('Mrs Scotland'). Ewing was the Scottish National Party President from 1987 to 2005.[2]

Early life

Ewing was born in July 1929 in Glasgow to Christina Bell Anderson and George Woodburn, a small business owner.[3][4] She was educated at Battlefield School and Queen's Park Secondary School. In 1946 she matriculated at the University of Glasgow where she graduated with an MA and LLB.[3] Although relatively inactive in politics at that time, she joined the Student Nationalists. Following her graduation, she qualified and practised as a solicitor and notary public. She was Secretary of the Glasgow Bar Association from 1962 to 1967.[5]

Political biography

Ewing 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 Hamilton by-election as the Scottish National Party (SNP) candidate.[6][7] She was elected with the help of a team including her election agent, John McAteer. On 16 November, she made her first appearance at Westminster, with her husband and children accompanying her on the journey.[8] She arrived at the parliament in a Scottish-built Hillman Imp and was greeted by a crowd and a pipe band.[9]

Ewing said at the time "stop the world, Scotland wants to get on", and her presence at Westminster led to a significant rise in membership for the SNP. It was speculated that Ewing's electoral gain led to the establishment of the Kilbrandon Commission by the Labour government of Harold Wilson to look into the viability of a devolved Scottish Assembly. In hindsight it could be said to mark the start of modern politics in Scotland, according to Professor Richard Finlay, Strathclyde University, bringing young people and women from non-political backgrounds into politics for the first time, whilst Labour and Tory party organisation and branch numbers were declining.[10]

Despite her high profile, Ewing was unsuccessful in retaining the Hamilton seat at the 1970 general election.[11] At the following February 1974 election she stood for Moray and Nairn and was returned to Westminster, although another election followed in October of the same year when her already marginal majority declined. Following the October election she was announced as the SNP's spokesperson on external affairs and EEC.[12] She first became an MEP in 1975, at a time when the European Parliament was still composed of representative delegations from national parliaments. She lost her Westminster seat at the May 1979 election, but within weeks had gained a seat in the European Parliament at the first direct elections to the Parliament. Ewing was unsuccessful at seeking to return to Westminster as the SNP candidate for Orkney and Shetland in 1983, coming third.

She was elected the SNP Party President in 1987.[5] It was during her time as an MEP that she acquired the nickname Madame Écosse (French for 'Mrs Scotland') because of her strong advocacy of Scottish interests in Strasbourg and Brussels.[13][14] That sobriquet was first used by Le Monde and with Ewing using the term as a badge of pride, it stuck.[15] By 1995 she had become Britain's longest serving MEP.[15] She had been a former Vice President of the European Radical Alliance which included French, Guyanese, Flemish, Luxembourg, Italian, Corsican and Spanish (Canary Islands) MEPs.

In 1999, she did not stand for the European Parliament, instead becoming a Member of the Scottish Parliament (MSP) in the first session of the Scottish Parliament, representing the Highlands and Islands. As the oldest qualified member,[16][17] it was her duty to preside over the opening of the Scottish Parliament, a session she opened with the statement: "The Scottish Parliament, adjourned on the 25th day of March in the year 1707, is hereby reconvened".[18] She sat as a member on the European Committee, then the Public Petitions Committee.[19]

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.[20] In January 2003, her husband, Stewart Ewing, died in a fire accident.[21] 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. Later that year 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 wife Margaret Ewing, and her daughter Annabelle Ewing, who was also an MP between 2001 and 2005.[22]

First Minister of Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon said that Ewing had given her "hugely valuable advice" on public speaking, and that Ewing had given her some important advice as a young woman in politics, namely "Stand your ground and believe in yourself" and "a more vibrant, colourful, dynamic, passionate, committed person, you would struggle to meet."[4]

Outside Parliament

Ewing is a vice president of equal rights charity Parity.[23] On April 2009, BBC Alba broadcast a biographical documentary Madame Ecosse, produced by Madmac Productions. It was rebroadcast on BBC Scotland to mark her 80th birthday.[14] Nicola Sturgeon named Ewing as her Political Hero on BBC News in 2018.[4]

Awards and honours

In 1990 she was made a fellow of the Royal Society of Arts.[24] She was conferred with honorary LLD degrees from the University of Glasgow in 1995 and University of Aberdeen in 2004,[25] She was conferred with Doctor of the University degrees from the Open University in 1993[26] and University of Stirling in 2012.[27] In 2009, a portrait of her painted by David Donaldson in 1970 was loaned to the Scottish Parliament and put on display.[28]


  1. ^ "Biography of Winnie Ewing". University of Glasgow. Retrieved 9 August 2014.
  2. ^ a b Ewing, Winnie. Russell, Michael (ed.). Stop the World: The Autobiography of Winnie Ewing. Birlinn Ltd. ISBN 9781841582399.
  3. ^ a b "Ewing, Mrs Winifred Margaret, (born 10 July 1929), Member (SNP) Highlands and Islands, Scottish Parliament, 1999–2003", Who's Who, Oxford University Press, 1 December 2007, doi:10.1093/ww/9780199540884.013.u15320, retrieved 22 April 2019
  4. ^ a b c Glinka, Elizabeth (23 March 2018). "Political heroes: Sturgeon on Winnie Ewing". Retrieved 22 April 2019.
  5. ^ a b "Mother Scotland". The Scotsman. 22 February 2007. Retrieved 11 November 2018.
  6. ^ "No M.P. safe except me – Mrs Ewing". The Glasgow Herald. 4 November 1967. p. 1. Retrieved 12 December 2016.
  7. ^ "Ewing rekindles memories of the battlefield dispatch". The Herald. 21 September 1999. Retrieved 11 November 2018.
  8. ^ "Speakers was warmest welcome for Winnie". The Glasgow Herald. 17 November 1967. p. 1. Retrieved 12 December 2016.
  9. ^ "Crowds Greet Mrs Ewing at Westminster". The Glasgow Herald. 17 November 1967. p. 18. Retrieved 15 December 2016.
  10. ^ Spowart, Nan (3 May 2020). "The Wonder of Winnie (print edition). Winnie Ewing, the woman who helped put the SNP and Scotland on the map (online edition)". The National. Retrieved 10 May 2020.
  11. ^ "Mrs Ewing brave in defeat". The Herald. 19 June 1970. p. 1. Retrieved 15 December 2016.
  12. ^ Clark, William (15 October 1974). "SNP to press Labour on assembly pledge". The Herald. p. 14. Retrieved 15 December 2016.
  13. ^ Donnelly, Brian (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 11 November 2018.
  14. ^ a b "Mg Alba". Mg Alba. Archived from the original on 12 March 2012. Retrieved 27 January 2012.
  15. ^ a b Ritchie, Murray (8 July 1995). "First lady of Europe. Profile Winnie Ewing". The Herald. Retrieved 13 December 2016.
  16. ^ Cowan, Edward J.; Finlay, Richard J., eds. (2002). "Scottish History: The Power of the Past". Edinburgh University Press: 253. JSTOR 10.3366/j.ctt1r23k0. sad Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  17. ^ "MEETING OF THE PARLIAMENT - Debate". Scottish Parliament. 12 May 1999. Retrieved 1 June 2020.
  18. ^ "Ross Lydall: 1967 and all that: is history about to repeat itself?". The Scotsman. 15 April 2009. Retrieved 9 August 2014.
  19. ^ "MSPs: Previous MSPs Session 1 (12 May 1999 - 31 March 2003) : Winnie Ewing". Scottish Parliament. Retrieved 13 December 2016.
  20. ^ "SNP veteran Ewing to retire". BBC News. 22 July 2001.
  21. ^ "Winnie Ewing's husband dies after a fire at their house". The Herald. 7 January 2003. Retrieved 12 December 2016.
  22. ^ "General Election 2010: 'Madame Ecosse' in Perthshire". Perthshire Advertiser. 30 April 2010. Retrieved 27 January 2012.
  23. ^ "Parity – Campaigning for equal rights for UK men and women". Retrieved 27 January 2012.
  24. ^ "Ewing, Mrs Winifred Margaret, (born 10 July 1929), Member (SNP) Highlands and Islands, Scottish Parliament, 1999–2003", Who's Who, Oxford University Press, 1 December 2007, doi:10.1093/ww/9780199540884.013.u15320, retrieved 22 April 2019
  25. ^ "Leading Scottish figures to be honoured by the University of Aberdeen" (Press release). University of Aberdeen. 19 November 2004. Retrieved 15 December 2016.
  26. ^ "600 Scots students to receive Open University degrees". The Herald. 1 May 1993. Retrieved 15 December 2016.
  27. ^ "Honorary graduates". University of Stirling. Retrieved 15 December 2016.
  28. ^ "Ewing portrait marks anniversary". BBC News. 12 May 2009.

Further reading

Parliament of the United Kingdom Preceded byTom Fraser Member of Parliament for Hamilton1967–1970 Succeeded byAlexander Wilson Preceded byGordon Campbell Member of Parliament for Moray and NairnFebruary 1974–1979 Succeeded byAlexander Pollock European Parliament New constituency Member of the European Parliament for Highlands and Islands1979–1999 Constituency abolished Scottish Parliament New parliament Member of the Scottish Parliament for Highlands and Islands1999–2003 With: Duncan Hamilton and 5 others Succeeded byRob Gibson, Jim Matherand 4 others Party political offices Preceded byDonald Stewart President of the Scottish National Party1987–2005 Succeeded byIan Hudghton