We have travelled far on the path to independence - Christine Grahame

The late Winnie Ewing always spoke eloquently and with passion of and for Scotland, says Christine GrahameThe late Winnie Ewing always spoke eloquently and with passion of and for Scotland, says Christine Grahame
The late Winnie Ewing always spoke eloquently and with passion of and for Scotland, says Christine Grahame
Driving to the constituency recently I tuned in to BBC Scotland and a phone-in devoted to thanking teachers who had a positive influence on the lives of listeners.

The best of the bunch in my book was the tale of a man and his trombone playing. He explained he had a difficult childhood, in and out of care, skived school and generally was on a self-destruct path. Enter stage left, the music teacher who suggested he play a musical instrument and handed him a trombone.

That was his saviour. From there he progressed to joining the army and, you guessed it, as a trombonist in the brass band. Later, discharged, he joined the brass band section of the TAs where he met his wife to be who played the clarinet. They now have two children, both musical. Asked if he had not taken up the trombone what would have become of him, he replied that no doubt he would have turned out badly.

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What is the point of this tale? Well I would agree that one person’s timely intervention can and may, as is proved, change the course of someone’s history. For myself the intervention of Ann Raitt late of Musselburgh, with a few words to me about putting myself forward for selection as an SNP candidate, has led to 24 years and counting as an MSP. Had she not intervened Christine Grahame would have continued no doubt as a solicitor. I am sure some of you will have similar experiences.

To me there is a parallel in the course of a nation, of Scotland. Which brings me to the late Winnie Ewing, the unexpected victor in the Hamilton By-election in 1967, overturning a 16,000 labour majority. Winnie Ewing MP, MEP and MSP did just that. Her words to Westminster, where she was met with unrestrained political hostility and blatant misogyny, “Stop the World Scotland Wants to Get On”, still reverberate down the decades and are relevant.

In Europe, as sole SNP MSP she built and earned the soubriquet Madame Ecosse and always, always, spoke eloquently and with passion of and for Scotland. As a young woman and mother of three young children she took on her political duties diligently, long before the days of childcare and any equality agenda.

She was a pioneer in more ways than one. Winnie was first MSP to preside over the Scottish Parliament in 1999 and I was there when she delivered the historic words “The Scottish Parliament adjourned on 25th March 1707 is hereby reconvened”.

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She always had the right words for the right place at the right time. Les mots justes from Madame Ecosse. Just like my trombone man and his teacher, my Ann Raitte, Winnie’s victories, her interventions, took Scotland on a path not yet for me at its destination. She once referred to that path to Independence as a climb up a mountain.

When you consider the majority of MSPs now support independence, when there are 45 SNP MPs at Westminster to six Tories, one Labour and four Lib/Dems then it is extraordinary how far the demand for an Independent Scotland has travelled since that win in 1967. With her victory in 1967 we had not moved far from the foothills and while in 2023 we have not reached the summit, we are close and I have no doubt we will and at long last place there Scotland’s saltire.

Christine Grahame is SNP MSP for Midlothian South, Tweeddale and Lauderdale

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