WINNIE Ewing became a Scottish nationalist icon when she won the 1967 Hamilton by-election against all odds.

Many will remember her first appearance at Westminster when she arrived in a Scottish-built Hillman Imp, being the patriot that she was, after clinching what was seen as an impenetrable Labour seat. 

But it was her words at that time that sent ripples through Scottish politics and sparked the very beginnings of the SNP’s rise to power.

She uttered the now immortal words “stop the world, Scotland wants to get on”, helping to place her party and country firmly on the political map.

READ MORE: The moment Winnie Ewing reconvened the Scottish Parliament

This and 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.

Her words were also representative of a change of direction at the time for the SNP on Europe.

It was a sign she didn’t see independence as turning your back on everyone and going it alone, but should be more about fulfilling your potential, being a bigger presence on the world stage and engaging with other independent nations.

Professor Richard Finlay of Strathclyde University said the SNP had been pretty sceptical about Europe prior to Ewing.

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 Macartney and, paradoxically, Jim Sillars as well, who started to push a more favourable line on Europe and that emerges in the party as a new mantra of independence in Europe.

“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.”

Ewing, who was an MEP for 20 years gaining the nickname Madame Ecosse, did a lot for relations with other countries and for Scotland’s place in the world through her work on the Lomé Convention – a trade and aid agreement between the European Economic Community and 71 African, Caribbean and Pacific Countries.

Since she spoke those words back in 1967, Scotland has played a huge part on the global stage, hosting COP26 in 2021 and developing a distinct international presence.

The sight of first ministers meeting with presidents and prime ministers from across the world has become a familiar sight, much to the disgust of the Tories who have complained about cash being spent on the Scottish Government venturing overseas and in recent months have even sought to monitor meetings between Scottish ministers and foreign governments.

Nicola Sturgeon said on Twitter following news of her death that Ewing “did more than anyone to internationalise the independence movement and make it the outward-looking force we are today”.

In other words, Ewing is the reason the SNP are the pro-EU party we see dominating Scottish politics in 2023.