WINNIE Ewing has been a member of three parliaments – Westminster, European and Holyrood – and one of her hallmarks as a parliamentarian has been her commitment to the role of a backbencher as a valuable and voluble local voice.

At Holyrood she championed the Members Business slot at the end of each sitting day, which gives an opportunity for a debate without a final vote but which is always responded to by a government minister.

She would regularly stay in her seat to hear, and sometimes to participate in, these debates and I have the happiest memories of leaving the old chamber in the Church of Scotland Assembly Hall, usually as darkness was falling, and walking down the Lawnmarket with her discussing the issues of the day.

Sometimes we would drop into the Jolly Judge pub where we would be joined by other new MSPs keen to listen to someone they knew not only as a political legend but who had been actively arguing for Scottish independence before they had been to school.

It was at those gatherings that the idea of her biography was born. As she wanted to record her life, I encouraged her write down her many stories and organise them chronologically in folders.

After I lost my seat in May 2003, the election at which she retired, I worked with her to make a book out of the content of these folders and Stop The World was published in 2004.

Last Wednesday Winnie turned 90 and whilst many, including the First Minister, publicly wished her the best, there was a distinct lack of wider recognition and reporting.

READ MORE: Nicola Sturgeon wishes happy 90th birthday to Winnie Ewing

That was wrong because Winnie is undoubtedly one of the most significant Scottish political figures of the 20th century.

Her by-election victory at Hamilton in November 1967 marks the beginning of continuous parliamentary representation for the SNP. Her celebrity status and her relentless touring of the country thereafter laid the foundation for electoral success in 1974 and was a key factor in building ever-increasing pressure on the Westminster parties to deliver a measure of political devolution.

Her instinctive gift for talking politics to ordinary people and her flair for campaigning had a huge influence on the SNP. Flamboyant was a word invented for her, but what she did was always planned and backed up by her husband Stewart whose tragic death in a house fire just months before she retired was a cruel blow.

I remember my own introduction to Winnie as a campaigner. In 1987 I was the candidate for Clydesdale which included Larkhall – which had been in Winnie’s Hamilton seat 20 years earlier. She came out to help on the last Saturday of the campaign, a miserably wet day which deterred her not a whit.

WATCH: This is the moment Winnie Ewing reconvened the Scottish Parliament

Dashing into every shop and stopping every passer by, she breathed enthusiasm and life into the place and taught the candidate a lot about how to engage.

Her remarkable victory in the European elections of 1979, just weeks after losing her Moray Westminster seat, set her off on the most influential part of her career when, quickly christened Madame Ecosse by other European politicians, she made Europe work for her Highlands and Islands constituency and for Scotland. She secured massive funding because of her successful manoeuvring to gain Objective 1 status for her area and did much for relations with other countries and for Scotland’s place in the world through her work on the Lome Convention.

At the same time she remained a doughty fighter for the fishing industry and a host of other causes, seeing the local role once again as being of prime importance.

She became Scotland’s visible link to a positive Europe and again laid the groundwork for later success including the Remain majority in 2016.

Her final political incarnation saw her chair the opening of the reconvened parliament, and say so in words that will never be forgotten. But she did much more in her four-year term, including acting as mentor to a generation of fledging parliamentarians, helping them to learn their roles and responsibilities – and she has always taken those responsibilities very seriously.

Winnie Ewing at 90 deserves to be thanked by all of Scotland for a lifetime of service. But she should also be thanked for making politics a better, more interesting, more relevant and more human activity through which things are done for all our good.

That can’t be said about many politicians in this time of deep and disturbing crisis.

So we should say it about her as loudly, and often, as we can.