THE SNP must not allow a toxic mixture of “machismo” and “clairvoyancy” to lead it into a premature independence referendum, one of the party’s leading figures has warned.

MEP Alyn Smith, who is a candidate for deputy leader, said Scots might end up being “quite happy” with Brexit and it would be a mistake to link a referendum automatically to Scotland’s relationship with the EU.

It was also far too soon to ask voters to back independence when no one knew what kind of UK they would be leaving behind, he said.

His pointed intervention comes just a week after former First Minister Alex Salmond confidently predicted a second referendum in the latter half of 2018 because of Brexit.

That prompted other SNP figures to pour cold water on the idea, leading to claims of confusion at the top of the party.

MSP Joan McAlpine said that, despite saying Brexit made Indyref2 “highly likely”, Nicola Sturgeon had in fact put a referendum “very much on the back burner”.

Former justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill also urged Sturgeon to resist a “headlong rush to disaster” and a “glorious defeat” that would only scupper the independence cause.

While former Yes Scotland boss Blair Jenkins yesterday predicted Indyref2 by early 2018.

Now Smith, who has put Europe at the heart of his deputy leader ship campaign, has become the latest big hitter to counsel caution.

He said: “How can we possibly formulate an independence proposition until we know what we’re going to be independent from? Until we see what bargain basement Brexit Britain looks like, I don’t rule out the possibility that maybe it will work for us.

“I certainly don’t rule out the possibility that the people of Scotland will be quite happy with it. But at the moment we absolutely do not need to tie our hands. That strikes me as basic.”

He said Brexit would change the UK economy and attitudes in other EU countries, and until the picture settled, the SNP should use the time to draw up a fresh prospectus for Yes.

He said: “I’ve been really wary of the idea that Brexit, because of machismo or whatever else, could tip us headlong into somebody else’s timetable.”

Asked about a head of steam building in the Yes movement for Indyref2, he said: “Don’t underestimate the ruthless pragmatism of party members. Nobody wants to lose another independence referendum. That’s the big discipline.”

However he added: “I think there is a risk that we get railroaded into putting forward a proposition that isn’t quite there.

“I’m convinced, as we see the details of what Brexit Britain looks like, the people of Scotland will look at what we’re putting forward and say, ‘That’s actually our best option.’ But that’s an evolving process that will take a lot of conversation and time, and we’re not there yet.

“I wouldn’t even start being specific [about a timetable] until we see what the UK’s proposition for Brexit is, and then we see what the reaction of the other [EU] member states is. That’ll give us a better idea of where we’re going. Now is not the time for clairvoyancy.”

Smith, an MEP since 2004, and a member of the SNP’s ruling national executive, also said the party had to be “respectful” of the 1million people in Scotland who voted Leave on June 23.

“We can’t write off 38 per cent of the population. I think people who did vote Leave are very open to persuasion.”

In a speech in Edinburgh yesterday, former SNP deputy leader Jim Sillars also urged caution.

“This is not a time for bravado forecasts about the timing of a second referendum,” he said.

He also took a pointed swipe at Sturgeon’s comments in the Sunday Herald last week that the case for independence “transcends” economic concerns.

“The Yes movement cannot allow itself to be defined by these kind of statements, already recorded and stored in the files of Better Together for a Project Fear 2.”

Calling for a refreshed economic case to be central to the Yes campaign next time, he said SNP MPs and MSPs alone must not set the agenda for the whole Yes movement.