Lawyer and Prominent Nationalist Politician
Winifred Margaret 'Winnie' Ewing is a Scottish nationalist, lawyer and prominent SNP politician who was formerly a Member of Parliament (Hamilton1967-70; 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. She was elected SNP Party President in 1987 (to 2005).
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 went on to study for an LLB. After graduation she qualified and practised as a solicitor and notary public. She was Secretary of the Glasgow Bar Association from 1962-67. The University of Glasgow honoured Ewing with an LLD in 1995.
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. 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.
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 won a seat at the European Parliament in the first direct elections to the Parliament.
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. 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.
In 2003 she lost her husband, the same 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.
Ewing is a vice president of equal rights charity Parity.
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