Former first minister Alex Salmond led tributes to the late SNP stalwart Winnie Ewing, declaring her the “true radical spirit of Scotland” at a memorial service in Inverness.
His eulogy, delivered at Inverness Cathedral on Saturday afternoon, honoured the 93-year-old former MP, MEP and MSP, who was affectionately known as Madame Ecosse.
Ewing, the party’s first female parliamentarian, died last month surrounded by relatives.
Her children Fergus, Annabelle – current SNP MSPs – and Terry watched on as the service paid tribute to the “beloved icon’s” decades of political service.
In his eulogy, Salmond recalled Ewing’s “instinctive and heartfelt” commitment to Scotland.
Ewing was best known for declaring “Stop the world, Scotland wants to get on” after her shock victory at the Hamilton by-election in 1967.
Salmond said: “Could any other politician have won Hamilton? Possibly. Would they have done it as well, using it as the launchpad to change Scottish politics forever and for good? Nae chance. That was Winnie Ewing’s achievement.”
He said the SNP icon tilted the axis of Scottish politics, putting “Scottish independence on the map”.
And he said Ewing should be remembered as “the true radical spirit of Scotland”, a phrase once used to describe Scots bard Robert Burns.
The service was conducted by the Most Reverend Mark Strange, Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church and Bishop of the Diocese of Moray, Ross & Caithness, and the Very Reverend Sarah Murray, Provost of Inverness Cathedral.
First Minister Humza Yousaf, Scottish Parliament Presiding Officer Alison Johnstone and Highlands MSP Kate Forbes delivered readings at the service, which was attended by hundreds in person and livestreamed.
Gaelic songs were performed by Julie Fowlis, accompanied by her husband Eamon Doorley and Ciara, one of Ewing’s granddaughters.
Former Scottish Government cabinet minister Alex Neil also delivered a eulogy, which described the impact 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.”
Another of Ewing’s granddaughters, Natasha, gave a brief speech.
After Ewing’s death on June 21, Mr Yousaf led tributes to the “steadfastly European” former MEP, saying she played a “key role in shaping the perception of Scotland as a true European nation”.
Former first minister Nicola Sturgeon said Ewing, who was the first presiding officer of the reconvened Scottish Parliament in 1999, was a “beloved icon”.
Ewing is survived by her children Fergus, Annabelle and Terry and grandchildren Natasha, Ciara, Jamie and Sophie.
Her relatives thanked those who sent messages of condolence and said all were welcome at the service.
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.”
A private funeral service was held last month.
Ewing was born in Glasgow in 1929 and gained a law degree from Glasgow University before being elected to the UK Parliament.
Despite losing the Hamilton seat at the next election in 1970, she was re-elected to Westminster in 1974 for Moray and Nairn and retained her seat in the second election in October of the same year.
She also served in the European Parliament, representing the Highlands and Islands after losing her Westminster seat in 1979.
She resigned as an MEP in 1999 to stand as a candidate for the new Scottish Parliament, representing the Highlands and Islands until 2003.
Ewing was president of the SNP until 2005 when she stood down from elected office, though she remained an ardent supporter of the independence cause.