Ian Swanson: What does Winnie’s legacy hold for future of Scotland?

Douglas Crawford; George Reid; Gordon Wilson; Douglas Henderson; Winnie Ewing; Donald Stewart; Margaret Bain ; Hamish Watt; Iain MacCormick; Andrew Welsh; George Thompson.
11 SNP MPs elected in 1974
Douglas Crawford; George Reid; Gordon Wilson; Douglas Henderson; Winnie Ewing; Donald Stewart; Margaret Bain ; Hamish Watt; Iain MacCormick; Andrew Welsh; George Thompson. 11 SNP MPs elected in 1974
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POLITICS is a fast-moving business these days, with little time to adjust to the latest twist in the Brexit saga before there’s a new development on indyref2.

Much of what is happening just now could not have been predicted even a year ago and would have been almost unimaginable a generation back.

But the seeds of some of today’s dramas and debates can be traced through events which have marked the evolving face of Scottish politics.

Decade by decade the picture has shifted, reflecting a changing public mood and hinting at future trends.

It will be 50 years ago this November that the SNP’s Winnie Ewing made the big symbolic breakthrough for the party by winning the 1967 Hamilton by-election. There has been a Nationalist presence at Westminster ever since and although the SNP has experienced many ups and downs, that victory was the start of the party’s ascent.

It shocked the other parties and put Scotland’s future relationship with the rest of the UK firmly on the agenda.

Ten years later, in 1977, devolution was all the talk, though many in the still-dominant Labour party were less than enthusiastic.

Veteran Labour MP Tam Dalyell, perhaps the most sceptical, was prompted to ask his “West Lothian Question” for the first time: why should he as a Scottish MP at Westminster be able to vote on matters like education for Blackburn, Lancashire, but not Blackburn, West Lothian?

Another decade on and Scotland’s reaction against Margaret Thatcher’s Tory government was the inescapable theme. The 1987 general election saw the Conservatives lose 11 of their 21 seats north of the Border, including Edinburgh Central, taken by Labour’s Alistair Darling, and Edinburgh South, where Nigel Griffiths won for Labour.

Labour had seized control of Edinburgh’s City Chambers from the Tories three years earlier. And the double victory at the general election meant four of the six seats in what had been regarded as a Conservative city were now coloured red on the map.

The Tory wipe-out became complete, right across Scotland, at the 1997 general election. It’s 20 years ago next month that Tony Blair’s Labour landslide saw the Tories reduced to zero seats in Scotland. Edinburgh’s Sir Malcolm Rifkind and Lord James Douglas Hamilton were among the casualties. That election also paved the way for the creation of the Scottish Parliament. Mr Blair had no great enthusiasm for devolution but recognised it was, in his predecessor John Smith’s words, “unfinished business” for Labour and was happy to let Donald Dewar get on with it. The referendum was held that autumn, producing a convincing Yes Yes majority for a new parliament with tax-raising powers.

Another ten years and in 2007 Scotland had its first SNP government. Alex Salmond did not have a majority but managed to survive relatively comfortably for the full term at Holyrood and get re-elected with an unprecedented overall majority in 2011.

Now in 2017 the country has had one hard-fought independence referendum and is anticipating the possibility of another.

Where will Scotland stand in another decade? And are there signs to be read in today’s events about what the future holds?