THREE newly elected SNP MPs were so surprised they had won their seats last May that they very nearly resigned straight away.

That, at least, is the claim from one of the Labour members that the new generation of nationalists replaced in the 2015 general election.

Veteran Brian Donohoe reckons the SNP did not expect to win quite so convincingly as it did.

So a few of its candidates, he said, were taken by surprise to be taking their seats in the Commons.

Mr Donohoe, 67, stressed the Nationalists are not the first to be caught out with what accidental MPs, candidates elected after a stronger than expected showing.

HeraldScotland: Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon poses with newly-elected SNP MPs in front of the Forth Bridge in Queensferry

Back in 1997 - when Labour, like the SNP in 2015, got 56 MPs - Mr Donohoe says he had the job of keeping two new Labour MPs in the Commons.

Mr Donohoe said: "I know three SNP MPs wanted to resign after the election because they did not expect to get elected.

"They may well resign and a by-election be held on the date of the Scottish parliamentary election next year.

"This happens. In 1997 I had to cajole two of our members who did not expect or want to be MPs. I had to keep them on board because they didn't want to be in the Commons and wanted to resign."

Political parties always put up more names than they expect to win, often recruiting local activists our councillors to serve as place-holders.

With the SNP have just a half-dozen MPs for almost two decades.

Some SNP were sceptical about Mr Donohoe's claims. Sources insisted their 2015 candidates all knew they had a good chance of victory, even overturning some of the UK's biggest majorities.

A party spokeswoman said: "In stark contrast to Labour’s defeated MPs, SNP politicians will never take the support of the electorate for granted."HeraldScotland:

Mr Donohoe, speaking to The Herald as part of a wider series of interviews with defeated MPs, said he believed the SNP had peaked in the polls and was slipping back.

The kind of victory it secured in 2015, he said, could never be repeated.

He said: "The union will survive forever. The nationalists have peaked. "You can't get ver much further than wiping out the Labour party, to get where you have 56 out of 59 MPs, and expect to do any better than that. "You can't and you won't."

Mr Donohoe is under no illusions that politics in Scotland has changed, to focus on constitutional matters rather than what he sees as bread-and-butter issues. And he reckons this favours his party's auld enemy, the Tories.

He said: "The Labour Party has got a very difficult future in its hands. I reserve judgment and making critical comment about the current leadership but obviously the opinion polls don't give us any real encouragement.

"There is a sea change, though, and that, from what I hear on the street, is a move towards the Conservatives, instead of the way they were going throughout my career.

"There is a feeling that we are in constant turmoil around constitutional matters. The focus of attention should be to have a roof over your head and a job and a health service, to feel felt safe when you walked down the street. But all these issues are on the back burner and have been for some years. That is a grave error.

"The greatest contradiction is that there are nationalists who want independence but they want independence in Europe.

"Europe is in total turmoil. If the nationalists think there would be any great difference in Scotland to a UK vote to leave Europe then they are kidding themselves on.

"But in 2017 we are going to spend all our time on constitutional matters again and not get on with the real issues.

"It is a great thing for those in power because we are not looking at real issues. But it is bad politics in terms of the lot of real people."

HeraldScotland: MP Brian Donohoe

Mr Donohoe is not bitter about defeat. He is relieved.

He said: "If the truth be told, the voters did me a favour.

"I am 67, any idea that I would run again - or even throw my hat in ring for the Scottish Parliament - is pie in the sky."

He added: "The first thing I did when I lost was I changed my home number. I used to sleep with the work phone by my bed.

"Not having that is a great respite. I am enjoying life. I get up to when I want to and I go to bed when I want to. I can go out for a meal whenever I want to.

"I don't have anyone breathing down my neck. I am better off in every sense of the word. I don't have any money problems. And I don't have other problems."

Mr Donohoe after his defeat joked that he could now tell people to "eff off" for the first time in decades.

HeraldScotland: One of the videos showed Big Ben from close range

He served as an MP for 23 years and was a full-time official with the union Nalgo for more than a decade before that.

But he stressed that his politics had hurt his personal life. He said: "My one regret in life, I would have to say, came when somebody said to me 'You were a very bad parent because you were never at home'.

"Imagine if your children suffered as a consequence of work and you did not learn that until they sat around the dining table relating horror stories years later?"

Voters, he said, did not understand that politics could mean "ignoring your own offspring". But Mr Donohoe now wants to pass on some of his experience.

He plans a book on how to really get things done in politics. He has even taken out insurance against defamation to do so.

He said it was "not about me, but about politics and politicians and about how to lobby and how to deal with ministers, civil servants".

He added: "I was a Nalgo official when I realised that you did not go to councillors if you wanted something done.

"To the same extent, when you are in government or in the government party, if you want something done you go initially to the minister but you follow it up by going to civil servants.

"These are the issues that I don't think are widely known.

The Nalgo training was always that you did not want to put your head above the parapet unnecessarily but deal with things below the radar and that way you would get a lot more done."

Mr Donohoe is a trustee of the MP's pension fund. So he visits the Commons regularly. He passionately believes in pensions. His main concern is that many people will not get the comfortable retirement he has as the terms and conditions of pensions worsen.