NICOLA Sturgeon has said she is "heartbroken" following the news Scottish nationalist icon Winnie Ewing has died.

Sturgeon described the former SNP MP as a "master of the art of campaigning" and said it was a privilege to learn from her.

The former first minister added Scotland had lost "one of her foremost patriots". 

READ MORE: The story of Winnie Ewing's legendary Hamilton by-election win

Sturgeon said on social media: "Heartbroken by this news. I can’t begin to convey the depth of gratitude I feel for the advice, wisdom, encouragement and inspiration Winnie gave me and so many others over the years.

"She was a master of the art of campaigning and it was a privilege to learn from her.

"Today, Scotland has lost one of her foremost patriots and champions, the SNP and the independence movement have lost a beloved icon, and Fergus Ewing, Annabelle Ewing and Terry have lost their mum.

"My condolences to them and the wider family. Thank you #madameecosse."

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

Ewing - who died aged 93 on Wednesday - famously won the 1967 Hamilton by-election for the SNP, a constituency which had been a safe Labour seat.

She was an MP for two periods - from 1967 to 1970 and then again from 1974 to 1979. 

She was also an MEP for 20 years, during which time she acquired the nickname Madame Ecosse.

She went on to be an MSP in the later part of her career between 1999 and 2003.