OVER the years, only a handful of politicians are sufficiently kenspeckle to be known by their Christian names.

And, not at all incidentally, three of them have been women wedded to the cause of independence.

We lost one of them last week when ­Winnie Ewing’s 93-year-old life came to an end. Not just a good innings, as they say, but one studded with huge and often ­unexpected triumphs.

As has been well documented, her first was at Hamilton, a seat not previously contested by her party, but one where she made off with 46% of the vote at the first time of asking. Can’t remember the name of the local councillor she saw off, but then neither can anyone else.

Subsequent political adventures saw her win seats as an MP, MSP and MEP, the latter role of which laid the foundations for Scotland’s huge pro-Europe vote in the ­disastrous Brexit poll.

Trundle around the Highlands and you can clock umpteen signs still bearing the EU stars, testifying to the fact that this or that important infrastructure project had been underpinned by the Objective One funding status for which she fought with customary tenacity.

She may have spent a wheen of years in the central belt, but when she went to Europe on behalf of rural northern ­Scotland, she gave the average whirlwind a run for its money. Madame Ecosse, they called her, and what proud Scotswoman would not rejoice in that accolade?

How she must have loved being the first voice at the opening of Holyrood, and how much passion she brought to the phrase that our parliament was “hereby ­reconvened”.

Personally, I don’t mourn the fact that she didn’t get the quadruple up with a seat in the Lords. The burgeoning numbers in that chamber have long since discredited it; the genuine wisdom of its once proud boast hopelessly diluted by a ragtag and ­bobtailed army of clerics, political re-treads, party donors, and hereditaries, nary a one of them elected.

It is to the SNP’s credit that it has ­refused to play the ermine game, and ­Labour’s shame that it has too often used it as a handy dumping ground, a trick long ­perfected by the Tories.

Then there was Margo MacDonald, lost just months before the 2014 referendum to which ­campaign she brought her customary mix of common sense and consummate phrase-making.

I well remember her telling those of us convinced of the need for ­independence, that we could succeed if we all just ­persuaded one other voter. Still sound ­advice, as it happens.

I first met Margo when she was director of Shelter in Scotland, a testament to her ­lifelong attachment to social justice in all its guises.

She was, of course, far too bolshie for the formal political life, regularly falling out with her SNP colleagues over this or that supposed disciplinary breach.

She fell victim, as so many politicians do, to that nefarious practice of sticking somebody far down the party list, thus ensuring their chances of election as a regional MSP were on the slender side of nil.

It’s one of the many reasons I rail against parties being allowed to decide the rankings on the list presented to the electorate. Too often used as a ­particularly nasty form of revenge for some perceived disloyalty; too often resulting in the best candidates being ditched in favour of less talented souls.

A lesser woman, a more ­subservient soul, would have lived with that ­hierarchal verdict. Not Margo. She stood as an ­Independent, and none of the ­electors who sent her to Holyrood were ignorant of who “Margo” was.

Her trump card, outside of an ­engaging personality, was that they knew she was “one of them”. Not an academic, not ­really a professional politician at all, but a former PE teacher and pub landlady who would battle on their behalf.

One of her many campaigns was for Holyrood to bite the bullet and pass a bill allowing assisted dying, a cause ­informed by, but never solely about her own ­diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease. She knew of what she spoke.

It would be another notch on the ­MacDonald legacy belt if the ­Scottish ­parliament finally agreed with a ­proposition long accepted by the ­electorate. (Would make a nice change from pursuing policies positively loathed by the latter!)

Then along came Nicola. It’s ­fashionable these days to indulge in some not-so-­discreet Sturgeon bashing, despite the years she spent being lauded ­nationally and internationally as a ­formidable ­politician. Some of my ­colleagues have contracted a very bad case of selective amnesia.

Perhaps what the SNP yearned for was a politician who simultaneously housed Alex Salmond’s buccaneering spirit ­allied to Sturgeon’s legendary mastery of ­detail. You can – and I have – bemoaned the ­latter’s innate caution. You can – and I have – ­admired the former’s strategic nous. But show me the politician who boasts a complete and error-free skillset and I’ll refer you to any number of fantasy politics websites.

That the SNP ship was too tightly run in recent years, with too many excluded from the bridge, is pretty well beyond ­dispute. However, that accusation is a fair old distance from suspicions of actual malpractice.

Had Nicola so wished she could have made huge sums of money and created a very much more cushy lifestyle on the world stage. That she stuck with the party she joined as a teenager when ­independence was little more than a gleam in the odd eye, does not strike me as the hallmark of a chancer.

As this required to be penned before the reports of yesterday’s Dundonian ­talkfest, and yesterday’s latest march were ­concluded, I have no inkling where the good ship Indy is now being pointed. Or, for that matter, how it plans to ­navigate increasingly choppy waters.

So many wildly different routes have been proposed over the last few incident-packed months, that it’s not just the ­voting public who are thoroughly bemused.

What is very clear, however, is that Sir Keir and his branch office manager have been engaged in serious theft in the vicinity of the SNP’s wardrobe. The arrival of the Labour cavalcade in Leith and the promise to site GB Energy in Scotland constitutes larceny on a grand scale.

Imitation may or may not be the ­sincerest form of flattery, but to sally forth to explain to Scots that their own renewables would be emblematic of UK-run innovation takes a fair amount of brass in the neck area.

It’s all too reminiscent of the era when oil exploration in the North Sea was ­utilised to fund Mrs T’s assorted ­deindustrialisation initiatives, resulting in no oil fund and much misery.

Not even to mention a subsequent ­canny move by the then Labour government to redraw the oilfields map. Beware of London laddies bearing gifts is my advice.

And before all that, the sorry saga of Britoil, nationalised then partly ­privatised before the whole caboodle, “golden share” and all, was sold off into the hands of one of the big oil companies.

You know, the kind who can get out from under the so-called windfall tax by promising to invest in renewables to ­offset their drilling plans.

Examine the not-so-small print of Sir Keir’s generous offer to let us utilise our own power sources and you will note that they have signed up to the Tory ­government’s plans to continue ­exploration well into the future, and that – all in the name of prudence, of course – they have indefinitely postponed the promised £28 billion investment in their much trumpeted green revolution.

Scotland has been blessed with many fine politicians. We renew them too. ­Winnie and Margo have gone, and Nicola has left the podium. Whatever, whoever, comes next, keep the faith.