End of an era for Scottish National Party

Winnie Ewing celebrating her 90th birthday with then SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon

The death of Winnie Ewing, aged 93, marks the end of an era in Scottish politics.

It was Mrs Ewing’s shock victory at the 1967 Hamilton by-election that elevated the Scottish National Party from the political fringe and began its journey to become the dominant force in Scottish politics. She lived to see the SNP’s rise and the election of three successive party leaders as First Ministers of a devolved government at Holyrood – Alex Salmond, Nicola Sturgeon and Humza Yousaf.

But by the time of her death the SNP was in crisis and the second (and most successful) of those leaders, Nicola Sturgeon, was under arrest.

Moreover, just after Winnie Ewing’s death on Wednesday this week, her son Fergus Ewing – a Member of the Scottish Parliament – was threatened with expulsion from the SNP group at Holyrood after voting against the party’s coalition partner, Scottish Green Party co-leader Lorna Slater.

Canadian-born Ms Slater is being criticised by the Tories (and now by Fergus Ewing) for her promotion of a deposit return scheme involving a refundable 20p deposit on drinks containers. Problems and delays with this scheme have caused massive costs to Scottish businesses.

Fergus Ewing was already critical of many trendy policies pursued by the SNP under Sturgeon and Yousaf, and also strongly backed by their Green allies, including the highly controversial gender recognition law. He backed Kate Forbes, Yousaf’s opponent in this year’s SNP leadership election.

Fergus Ewing MSP

The Ewing family and Ms Forbes remain engaged in a battle for the SNP’s identity. They are of course not racial nationalists in any way, but they represent a form of very mild civic nationalism, as against the likes of Sturgeon and Yousaf whose vision of the SNP is environmentalist, left-liberal, and pro-‘trans’.

A third group of more old-fashioned left-wingers has partly broken away from the party to create Alba, led by Sturgeon’s predecessor Alex Salmond, but this has become irrelevant due to Salmond’s well-publicised character flaws and Putinism. Most of the SNP left-wing remains loyal to Sturgeon and Yousaf, despite continuing scandals that beset the party.

During the first half of the 20th century, some forms of Scottish and Welsh nationalism had something in common with fascism, but this tendency had been suppressed by the time Winnie Ewing put the SNP on the map.

Coincidentally, her victory at Hamilton in November 1967 (and the consequent explosion of the SNP onto Britain’s political scene) came just nine months after the creation of the National Front in February 1967, and four months before the NF’s first parliamentary by-election campaign. In 1989, halfway through her twenty years as MEP for the Highlands and Islands, Mrs Ewing caused controversy by joining the European parliamentary group then called the Rainbow Group, which included various types of nationalists including Italy’s Northern League (Lega Nord, now known as Lega).

But by contrast to the NF, the SNP were never racial nationalists and in recent years they have become the most shameless promoters of racial and cultural degeneracy. Winnie Ewing was no doubt genuinely appalled by some of this, but her own career effectively started the rot. In this sense her life’s mission was a failure, and the likely defeat of the next Scottish independence campaign will seal that failure, whether or not SNP leaders end up facing criminal charges.

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