AP International

Winnie Ewing, icon of Scotland’s pro-independence movement, dies at 93

LONDON (AP) — Winnie Ewing, a charismatic politician considered to be the mother of the modern Scottish independence movement, has died. She was 93.

Ewing’s relatives announced Thursday that she died the day before, “surrounded by her family.”

The family statement said Ewing was “considered the most important Scottish politician of her generation.” Former First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said that Scotland’s independence movement had lost “a beloved icon.”

Trained as a lawyer, Winnifred Margaret Ewing joined the pro-independence Scottish National Party — then a small fringe group — and unexpectedly won election to the U.K. Parliament in 1967. Ewing greeted her surprise victory with the words: “Stop the world — Scotland wants to get on.”

The win was a huge boost to the SNP, and Ewing became a high-profile champion of Scottish independence on the national and international stage.

She served in the U.K. Parliament, then the European Parliament — where she was nicknamed Madame Écosse, or Madam Scotland — and finally in the semi-autonomous Scottish parliament. It was established in 1999 as part of moves to decentralize power in the U.K. — the first time Scotland had had its own legislature since its political union with England almost three centuries earlier.

Ewing, as presiding officer, opened the Edinburgh-based parliament with the words: “The Scottish parliament, adjourned on the 25th day of March in the year 1707, is hereby reconvened.”

She served in the Scottish parliament until 2003 and was president of the SNP until 2005.

The SNP is now the dominant party in Scotland, where it has governed since 2007. Independence, however, remains elusive. Scottish voters rejected secession in a 2014 referendum, and attempts to secure a second independence vote are gridlocked.

Graphic novels are displayed for sale at a bookstore in New York City on Sunday, October 8, 2023. On Tuesday, the Commerce Department releases U.S. retail sales data for September. (AP Photo/Ted Shaffrey)
Graphic novels are displayed for sale at a bookstore in New York City on Sunday, October 8, 2023. On Tuesday, the Commerce Department releases U.S. retail sales data for September. (AP Photo/Ted Shaffrey)

First Minister Humza Yousaf, the current leader of the SNP, said that “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 U.K., European and Scottish Parliaments — shaped the modern nation we have today,” he said.

Ewing’s husband Stewart died in 2003. She is survived by her children Fergus, Annabelle and Terry, and four grandchildren.

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