50 years of SNP women in Parliament

Winifred Margaret ‘Winnie’ Ewing MP and the Ewing political dynasty

Elected for the Scottish National Party in Hamilton in a by-election on 2 November 1967, Winnie Ewing was the first SNP woman MP.

Winnie Ewing was the second MP to be elected for the SNP. An eloquent lawyer, her election heralded a major boost for the nationalist movement in Scotland and was a factor in persuading the Labour Government to focus on the process of devolution in the 1970s, which eventually came to fruition after 1997.

She was lost Hamilton in 1970, but was elected again for Moray and Nairn at the February 1974 general election, which she held till 1979After 1979 Mrs Ewing continued to serve as an MEP until 1999, before being elected to the newly established Scottish Parliament in the same year as Member for the Scottish Highlands and Islands. As the oldest member it was her duty to preside over the opening of the first session of Scottish Parliament, where she famously declared:

“The Scottish Parliament, adjourned on the 25th day of March in the year 1707, is hereby reconvened”.

She was the SNP Party President from 1987 to 2005.

Winnie has a number of family members who have also served at Westminster and at Holyrood. Margaret Bain was elected to the UK Parliament in October 1974 by just 22 votes for the constituency of East Dunbartonshire, but lost her seat in 1979. She married Winnie’s son Fergus in 1983 and returned to the Commons in 1987 for Moray. She held this seat until 2001 when she stepped down to concentrate on Holyrood, where she had won a seat in 1999. She died in 2006. Fergus Ewing was first elected to the Scottish Parliament for Inverness East, Nairn and Lochaber in 1999 and is currently Cabinet Secretary for Rural Economy and Connectivity.

Winnie Ewing’s daughter Annabelle Ewing won Perth at the 2001 UK general election, defeating the Conservative candidate by 48 votes. However, following a boundary change in 2005, she lost the seat. She was elected to the Scottish Parliament in 2011 as an Additional Member for Mid Scotland and Fife. She is currently Minister for Youth and Women’s Employment in Nicola Sturgeon’s administration.

The SNP greatly increased its parliamentary representation at the 2015 election, winning 56 seats. Mhairi Black was elected as SNP Member for the Paisley and Renfrewshire constituency aged 20, the youngest MP since the minimum age for standing for election was reduced in 2006. Overall, 20 women were elected as SNP MPs, 36% of the SNP parliamentary party. In 2017, the SNP won 35 of Scotland’s 59 seats, 12 of whom are women, 34% of the SNP parliamentary party. The overall percentage of women MPs at Westminster following the 2017 election is 32%.

Image: Alison Thewliss MP holding a display panel about Winnie Ewing

Further reading

Second Reading: House of Commons Library blog Women in the General Election 2017 22 June 2017 https://secondreading.uk/elections/women-in-the-general-election-2017/

Second Reading: House of Commons Library blog General Election 2015: women MPs and candidates 9 May 2015


UK Election Statistics 1918-2017 House of Commons Library 23 August 2017


Oonagh Gay, Vote100 project


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