FORMER first minister Alex Salmond led tributes to legendary Scottish independence campaigner Winnie Ewing at a memorial service in Inverness on Saturday.

The former MP, MEP and MSP died last month aged 93 surrounded by her family.

In his eulogy, Salmond hailed Ewing as being someone whose “commitment to Scotland was instinctive” and “heartfelt”.

“Her Scottish nationalism was the product of a loving family upbringing even through the turbulence of wartime Scotland," he continued.

READ MORE: Read Alex Salmond's eulogy for independence legend Winnie Ewing

“Which should remind us today as we celebrate the life and work of an extraordinary woman, we should recall a family mourning the passing of a mother and grandmother.”

Mrs Ewing is the mother to three children, including MSPs Fergus and Annabelle Ewing, and her grandchildren – Tasha, Ciara, Jamie and Sophie – were all present at the memorial.

Salmond also pointed to one of Ewing’s favourite quotes: “The heirts ay the pairts ay, that maks us richt or wrong.”

He explained: “It was Winnie’s favourite quotation usually told with reference to a conversation with former prime minister Alec Douglas-Home in the late 60s on the way to a Burns supper.

“Home said that he was a Scottish nationalist in his heart, but not his head and Winnie shot back with the Burns quotation, ‘the heirts ay the pairts ay’.

“But it seems to me the quote is much more than a clever retort to suit the occasion – it was actually Winnie’s guiding star – in her politics certainly, but in her life as well.”

As well as Salmond’s eulogy, First Minster Humza Yousaf and Highland MSP Kate Forbes gave readings at the service.

Mrs Ewing is perhaps best known for her 1967 Hamilton by-election victory for the SNP where, after her victory, she famously declared: “Stop the world, Scotland wants to get on.”

Salmond continued: “I was 12 years old when I first heard the name Winnie Ewing. It was lunchtime on Friday November 3, 1967.

“As was our habit, my pals and I were off to the McGinley Grill for food – to be greeted by a beaming Jimmy McGinley, later convener of West Lothian Council, who had bedecked his café in tartan, placed a giant poster of Winnie in the window and announced everything on the menu was free for the day.

“All of which means that among her many other achievements we should note that Winnie introduced free lunches for all school children 30 years before a new Scottish Parliament was born – Keir Starmer eat your heart out.”

The National: Alba leader Alex Salmond spoke at a rally held by independence campaigners All Under One Banner (Jane Barlow/PA)

He continued: “Only some of us here today can personally remember Hamilton but every single one of us has lived through the consequences – it was the transformational by-election.

“From that day to this, the constitution of Scotland has been ever-present in political debate. Ups and downs of course, but ever present.

“Could any other politician have won Hamilton? Possibly. Would they have done it as well, using it as the launchpad to change Scottish politics for ever and for good?

“Nae chance. That was Winnie Ewing’s achievement.”

Former Scottish Government cabinet minister Alex Neil also delivered a eulogy, which described the impact Mrs Ewing had across the political divide as he called her the “most effective performer and campaigner this country has ever seen”.

He said: “Winnie Ewing did not seek glory, riches or honours. She just devoted her entire life to fighting for freedom and independence for Scotland.”

A family spokesman said: “We have heard a myriad of anecdotes of happy experiences of Winnie over her long and successful time as MP, MEP and MSP.

“These have been of great comfort to the family.”