No official role for Nicola Sturgeon at Winnie Ewing memorial service

Instead, Alex Salmond, the former First Minister and Alba leader, will deliver a eulogy for the SNP icon at a memorial service organized by her family.

The former SNP leader, who knew Ms Ewing best, has been chosen for a central role in the ceremony, according to a report this morning.

Ms Sturgeon was arrested last month by police investigating the SNP’s finances as part of the long-running Operation Branchform.

Her arrest followed the arrests of her husband Peter Murrell and former party treasurer Colin Beattie MSP. All three were released without charge pending further investigation.

When asked if Ms Sturgeon would play a role at the memorial service, a source close to the Ewing family told The Herald: “No official role.”

Among those paying tribute will be Alex Neil, the former Health Secretary who was an arch-critic of the SNP’s leadership under Ms Sturgeon.

Humza Yousaf, the First Minister, and Kate Forbes, whom he defeated in the race for leadership in March, have been invited to readings, while Holyrood leader Alison Johnstone will offer a prayer, The Times reported today.

Ms Ewing died on June 21 at the age of 93.

She was elected to the House of Commons in the 1967 Hamilton by-election and served as party president from 1987 to 2005.

Her son Fergus and daughter Annabelle are both MSPs at Holyrood.

The election of Mrs Ewing to Westminster in 1967 was a breakthrough that marked the beginning of the SNP’s rise in the 1970s.

Mr. Salmond’s prominent position in the military has raised the eyebrows of some SNP politicians. They accuse him of fomenting divisions after quitting to found the Alba party.

One MSP told The Times: “Not everyone will understand or agree with the choice, but this is a decision for families to make.”

Mr Neil said: “Winnie Ewing is an outstanding figure in modern Scottish history who launched the rise of the independence movement.”

As the oldest qualified Member, Ms Ewings had a duty of presiding over the opening of the Scottish Parliament in 1999. She opened the session by saying: “The Parliament of Scotland, adjourned March 25th, 1707, is hereby closed.”

Her memorial service will be held at Inverness Cathedral each week on Saturday 15 July.

A private funeral service was held at New Kilpatrick Church in Bearsden last week, attended by family colleagues and friends and with her son Fergus officiating the funeral service.

MEPs in the House of Commons on Tuesday night celebrated the life of the former MP, MP and MEP who was known as “Madame Ecosse”.

Former SNP leader in Westminster, Ian Blackford, told MPs that the fact that she has served three terms makes her unique among Scottish politicians.

He spoke about the significance of their by-election victory. He said, “Winnie lit a spark that night, and that spark’s fire has burned brightly ever since.”

Pete Wishart, the SNP MP, said: “It’s hard to believe someone of her caliber will be on the Scottish political stage for a long, long time to come.” . What a life, what a regret, what a legend Winnie Ewing is.”

Highland Liberal Democrat MP Jamie Stone said many are mourning her death. He said: “This lady pushed the boundaries of partisan politics, she got down to the common people of Scotland and that was a tremendous strength, a rare strength.”

Scotland Office Minister John Lamont said she was an inspiration to many and a unique voice. He added, “There is no doubt that Winnie Ewing was a trailblazer and a powerful role model whose high profile made it easy for other women on all sides to follow in her footsteps.”

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