Our history of the Scottish independence movement continues with the story of a remarkable woman.

STOP the world, Scotland wants to get on. Those are probably the words Winnie Ewing is most famous for and in many ways she did put Scotland and the SNP on the map. First of all with her stunning win in the Hamilton by-election in 1967, then in the European Parliament where she was dubbed Madame Ecosse.

Not only can she be seen as a trailblazer for women in politics but her historic win in Hamilton also marks the beginning of modern politics in Scotland, according to Professor Richard Finlay of Strathclyde University.

“The reason she won is you have dinosaurs in both the Tory and Labour parties, their party organisations have gone into decline and you have some Labour branches with only 20 members and they are all in three families,” he said.

The SNP on the other hand were bringing a lot of people into politics for the first time, many of them women, many of them young and many of them from non-political backgrounds.

“They have a more switched-on approach to political campaigning and are much more savvy. Winnie was part of that generation along with people like Billy Wolfe,” said Finlay.

“In 1967 when she made the breakthrough it was really the beginning of modern politics in Scotland.

“Labour took the seat for granted and there were economic issues in the background such as the devaluation of Sterling at that time and fact that the economy was not doing particularly well.

“The SNP brought in lots of volunteers and you could not have asked for a bigger contrast as here was someone young, dynamic, articulate and attractive who went round and listened to people, whereas Labour had this ex-trade union councillor, another man in a suit who was the embodiment of everything that was not right about politics.”

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The surprise win in Hamilton saw the SNP take 46% of the vote in a seat they had not even contested in the 1966 General Election, gaining a swing from Labour of nearly 38%. It had been considered a safe seat for Labour and in 1966 the SNP took only 5% of the Scottish vote, with 23 candidates in 71 seats.

There was no such thing as a safe seat for an SNP candidate at that time and anyone electing to stand was sure to have a battle on their hands.

Ewing, a vivacious mother of three children and a Glasgow solicitor, was fighting her first campaign and the SNP had been written off by their opponents as a spent force.

“In one sense if a woman wanted to make an impact in politics the SNP was a better choice than Tory or Labour where there was a hierarchy and safe seats,” pointed out Finlay.

READ MORE: A woman who changed Scotland: Winnie Ewing's SNP by-election win

He added: “In many respects the SNP have become similar now because they are quite managerial and have what would be called safe seats. However back then if you saved your deposit then you were considered to have done well.”

Ewing had joined the SNP while at Glasgow University – much to the horror of her Labour-supporting father – but while she had friends in the Labour Party she said the behaviour of many Labour MPs at Westminster was so vicious she reported it to the Commons authorities.

She later said: “It wasn’t the Welsh, English and Irish. It was the [Labour] people from the central belt who thought they were born to rule and couldn’t get over the shock.”

The harassment had begun during the bruising by-election battle. “Even on the eve of poll there were people chasing us in cars and driving us off the road. There was a definite fury and rage,” she said.

Although she lost the seat in the General Election of 1970, her Hamilton victory was an early sign of the advances the SNP were to make later.

Her colourful presence at Westminster led to a significant rise in SNP membership and her win was enough to shake the Labour and Tory governments of the time to consider devolution, which led to the first devolution referendum in 1979.

Ewing returned to Westminster as MP for Moray and Nairn in February 1974 when the SNP won six seats and although her majority declined in the October election that same year which saw 11 SNP candidates elected, she held on and became the SNP’s spokesperson on external affairs and the European Economic Community.

SHE first became an MEP in 1975 when the European Parliament was composed of representative delegations from national parliaments but gained a seat in the first direct elections in 1979 just after she lost her Westminster seat.

Her passion for Europe was a reflection of a change of direction in the wider party, according to Finlay.

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“The SNP had always been pretty sceptical about Europe,” he said. “The idea was that there was no point in taking sovereignty away from Westminster to give it to Europe.

“Winnie is quite important in that she is one of the people along with Alan McCartney and, paradoxically, Jim Sillars as well, who start to push a more favourable line on Europe and that emerges in the party as a new mantra of independence in Europe.”

He added: “What that does is psychologically very significant as critics of independence always had this idea of separation as going on your own, whereas independence in Europe dulls that and says ‘actually you are not going on your own, you are having a new constitutional relationship’ so it undermines the idea that nationalism is narrow and introspective.

‘‘In that sense it is pretty important and Winnie is part and parcel of that as it marks the decline of Euroscepticism.

‘‘There is a movement more in favour of Europe within the SNP and it is probably fair to say that reflects a shift in public opinion which has continued.

“It’s that idea that independence is not cutting yourself off. Winnie said ‘Stop the world, Scotland wants to get on’ and her view was that independence is not turning your back on anybody but rather that it is being more engaged with the world.”

Finlay continued: “She was very charismatic and she always held court which for a woman in politics at that time was pretty unusual. She certainly did fly the flag as well as anybody but it actually took Brexit for people in Europe to notice Scotland.”

Michael Russell, who edited Ewing’s autobiography, Stop The World, said her remarkable victory in the European elections of 1979, just weeks after losing her Moray Westminster seat, set her off on the most influential part of her career.

READ MORE: Winnie Ewing deserves to be thanked by the whole of Scotland

“Quickly christened Madame Ecosse by other European politicians, she made Europe work for her Highlands and Islands constituency and for Scotland,” he said. “She secured massive funding because of her successful manoeuvring to gain Objective 1 status for her area and did much for relations with other countries and for Scotland’s place in the world through her work on the Lomé Convention.

“At the same time she remained a doughty fighter for the fishing industry and a host of other causes, seeing the local role once again as being of prime importance.

“She became Scotland’s visible link to a positive Europe and again laid the groundwork for later success including the Remain majority in 2016.”

EWING’S final political incarnation saw her chair the opening of the reconvened Scottish Parliament with the words: “The Scottish Parliament adjourned on the 25th day of March in the year 1707 is hereby reconvened.”

It meant Ewing, who is now 90, has been a member of three parliaments – Westminster, Holyrood and the European Parliament.

“She deserves to be thanked by all of Scotland for a lifetime of service,” said Russell. “But she should also be thanked for making politics a better, more interesting, more relevant and more human activity through which things are done for all our good.”

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Ewing was also elected president of the SNP in 1987 just as a young Nicola Sturgeon was beginning her political career.

The First Minister has said Ewing gave her “hugely valuable advice” about public speaking and how to project her voice.

“Winnie is, to this day, the best street campaigner that I’ve ever watched in action but I suppose the most important advice she ever gave me as a young woman is ‘Stand your ground and believe in yourself’,” said Sturgeon.

“She argued her cause and her corner at a time when it wasn’t fashionable to do so, and she did it against all of the odds having experienced abuse and bullying along the way.

“She progressed the cause of what she believed in, massively. A more vibrant, colourful dynamic, passionate, committed person, you would struggle to meet.”

Her political legacy is still evident in the modern SNP, according to Sturgeon. There is also the makings of a political dynasty with both her son Fergus and daughter Annabelle following in her footsteps as MSPs in the parliament she worked so hard to establish.

The University of Glasgow honoured her with an LLD in 1995.