Legendary SNP politician Winnie Ewing has sadly died at the age of 93, her family announced.
The veteran nationalist icon, who officially opened the Scottish Parliament in 1999, passed away on Wednesday surrounded by loved ones.
Ms Ewing represented seats in the north and north-east for more than a quarter of a century during her lengthy political career.
She stunned Britain when she became one of the SNP’s first ever elected politicians in a shock by-election more than 50 years ago.
Tributes poured in from senior figures within the SNP, describing Ms Ewing as a formidable politician who was fundamental to her party’s growth.
‘Unique and unparalled contribution’
First Minister Humza Yousaf said: “No words can truly capture the unique and unparalleled contribution that Winnie made to Scotland and Scottish politics.
“Without Winnie the SNP would never have achieved the success we have, and self-government for Scotland would never have become the priority it did.”
Ex-SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon said: “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.”
Former First Minister Alex Salmond said Ms Ewing was “the most influential Scottish nationalist of the 20th Century”.
‘Trailblazer for women’
SNP social justice chief Shirley-Anne Somerville paid a tearful tribute to her in the Holyrood chamber, describing Ms Ewing as a “trailblazer for women”.
Two of Ms Ewing’s children, Fergus and Annabelle Ewing, are currently serving as SNP MSPs in Holyrood.
In 1967, the veteran nationalist secured a shock by-election win in Hamilton, ousting Labour from a seat they had been expected to hold onto easily.
After her unexpected victory she famously declared: “Stop the world, Scotland wants to get on.”
Despite losing her seat three years later, she soon returned to Westminster as the MP for Moray and Nairn in 1974.
Five years later Ms Ewing was elected to Brussels as an MEP for the Highlands and Islands, a post she held for 20 years.
Her work in the European Parliament in promoting Scotland’s interest earned her the nickname “Madame Écosse”, French for Mrs Scotland.
Ms Ewing was then among the first batch of MSPs to be elected to the Scottish Parliament after she picked up a Highlands and Islands list seat.
She was given the honour of formally opening Holyrood as its oldest member, when she famously declared: “The Scottish Parliament, which adjourned on March 25, 1707, is hereby reconvened.”
Ms Ewing stepped down from Holyrood four years later and then resigned as the SNP’s president in 2005 after 18 years in the post.
The flags outside the Scottish Parliament were lowered to half mast to honour her.
Her husband Stewart – who tragically died in 2003 – had been active within the nationalist movement and was an SNP councillor in Glasgow.
Born in Glasgow herself in 1929, Ms Ewing had been highly successful as a lawyer before she made her breakthrough at Westminster.
Former Deputy First Minister John Swinney said: “Heartbroken to hear Winnie Ewing has died. She inspired generations who sought Independence and gave everything she could to make it happen.”
SNP Westminster leader Stephen Flynn said: “Winnie Ewing was an icon of the SNP and the independence movement.
“She will be sorely missed by people across Scotland – and my thoughts and condolences are with her family.”
Rival political parties also paid tribute to the pro-independence icon.
Scottish Tory boss Douglas Ross said: “Winnie made an immense contribution to politics throughout her life and was held in such high regard locally as the former MP for Moray and Nairn.”
Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar wrote: “This is extremely sad news. My thoughts are with the entire Ewing family and all their wider family and friends.”