SNP MP Tommy Sheppard said that the phrase “once in a generation” used in 2014 was not a promise that the issue of Scottish independence would go away.

Speaking during a debate on the General Election in Scotland and the country’s constitutional future, he told the Commons: “Let me deal with this question of ‘once in a generation’, this mantra.

“The Prime Minister has repeated this ad nauseum over the last 12 months and in some of the iterations in which he speaks you would think that those words were on the ballot paper on September 18, 2014.

“I accept that the phrase ‘once in a generation’ was part of the debate, but let us at least be honest with each other about the context in which that was said. It was said invariably by those who were proposing a Yes vote for independence as a caution to their supporters that they might not get another chance. It was not made as a promise or qualification to those who opposed independence that it was going to go away forever.”

Making an intervention, Labour MP Christian Matheson said: “This is all well and good trying to explain away this phrase ‘once in a generation’. Here’s the point, it wasn’t us that said it, it wasn’t even the Tories that said it, it was the SNP that said it.”

Sheppard also said he would welcome an independence referendum this year, but insisted that a vote would only take place if the pandemic is over. He told MPs: “Let’s be entirely clear about this, no-one is suggesting that we have a referendum campaign during the pandemic. We will have to have that put behind us and be moving into a recovery phase before that can happen.

“I don’t want to ask people in Scotland about their future through the medium of a computer screen. I want people to be engaged in this debate as friends and as strangers in workplaces, in pubs, in parks. I want them talking about this energised in the way they were in 2014.”