THE SNP's shadow leader of the House of Commons says he and most of the party's 115,000 members are “relatively relaxed” about not seeking a mandate for an independence referendum in May.

Despite many activists wanting a swift second vote, Pete Wishart, one of the party's most senior MPs and chair of the Commons’ Scottish Affairs Select Committee, said the coming Holyrood election would be about good governance, not the constitution.

The No vote in 2014 was “decisive” and should be respected, he told the Sunday Herald.

He said: “This election will be about stewardship of public services and whether people have confidence in the SNP. As we go forward, this parliament is about who’s in the best position to be the Scottish government, that’s what this really is going to be about.”

The Perth and North Perthshire MP went on: “We’ve had that referendum, we got a decisive result, and we said that would be a once in a generation referendum.

“Unless something significant and substantial happens in the next few years, I think that’s something that we have to respect and observe.

“That’s why I’m relatively relaxed about a manifesto commitment, about not having it included, even though every one of our manifestos have up until this point. I would imagine that would be the majority opinion in the party.”

Earlier this month the Sunday Herald revealed the SNP manifesto, due out in April, would be the party’s first since 1999 not to include a binding commitment to a referendum.

Instead it is expected to repeat the argument from Nicola Sturgeon's October conference speech that it would be wrong to commit to a new vote without a major shift in public opinion.

The approach is designed to keep the SNP’s options open, allowing it to demand a second referendum from London if there is a sudden surge in support for leaving the UK following an event such as the country being taken out of the EU.

However it also means the First Minister will lack a clear electoral mandate for a referendum, making it hard to persuade Westminster to grant Holyrood the power to hold a legally binding vote.

After the narrow 55-45 result in 2014, the Tory government would be highly unlikely to allow a second referendum unless forced to do so by an unambiguous mandate.

Other SNP parliamentarians echoed Wishart’s view. Glasgow Shettleston MSP John Mason admitted some SNP members urgently wanted a new referendum, but said: “There’s no point having a referendum just because all the people who voted Yes last time are very enthusiastic. That’s not going to win it.

“If I was writing the manifesto I would be restating what Nicola and others have said - as and when public opinion has shifted more in favour of independence, then that would be the time to look at a referendum.

“We’d be saying that if public opinion did change dramatically in, say, three years that would be enough to have another referendum.

"But it’s basically making a statement - it's certainly not committing to having a referendum in five, ten or any other number of years. I wouldn’t timetable it personally. I don’t see the point of that.”

MEP Alyn Smith, who has previously urged party activists to focus on bread and butter issues for the Holyrood election rather than Indyref2, said: “I remain absolutely committed to independence. The question is the timing. I don’t detect a huge appetite amongst the voters for a second referendum.”

Like Wishart, he stressed the need to respect the 2014 result.

“Either you accept democracy or you don’t. It doesn’t mean it [a referendum] is off the table forever. But for this election, I would be very understanding if Nicola in her wisdom decides not to put it in the manifesto.”

In a recent online speech, Edinburgh Eastern MP Tommy Sheppard also downplayed the prospect of another referendum.

He said: “I believe we need to respect that [2014] result, and we do not go in quickly for another referendum. We don’t seek a mandate in the next election to have that.

“We have a period of grace, if you like. And although we may not have a referendum in the next five years, the journey towards it has to continue. I would speculate that if conditions are right, we probably should be aiming to have a referendum in ‘21 or ‘22.”

Former SNP deputy leader Jim Sillars dismissed Sturgeon's argument that the Scottish people would somehow decide the timing of the next referendum as “woolly thinking”, as only a clear-cut political mandate would compel Westminster to concede one.

He said: “If you don’t ask the Scottish people for a mandate, how do the Scottish people trigger a referendum? It’s simple. They don’t. The Scottish people can only express themselves for or against if you put it in your manifesto and ask them to support or reject it. I don’t understand this woolly thinking.”