THERESA May’s de-facto deputy has refused to release the findings of a poll which his department commissioned about’ attitudes to independence and the Union.

Cabinet Office minister David Lidington’ s department rejected a freedom of information (FOI) request from the SNP MP Tommy Sheppard to obtain the report commissioned from research firm Ipsos Mori.

Sheppard wrote to Lidington on June 3 asking for the study, arguing it was in the public interest for it to be published and pointing out it had been paid for by the taxpayer.

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He also requested any additional polling information held by the Cabinet Office since January 2018 on public perceptions about “the strength of the Union”.

Sheppard made the FOI request after Lidington’s department had previously failed to provide him with the Ipsos Mori report via parliamentary questions.

The Cabinet Office told Sheppard the report would not be supplied as “it relates to the formulation or development of government policy” and that “the balance of the public interest favours withholding this information.”

The Edinburgh East MP said the Government’s refusal to release the poll suggested it was “running scared”. Research earlier this month found 53% of voters in Scotland would back independence if Boris Johnson, the frontrunner in the Tory leadership race, became prime minister.

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“With polls showing support for independence is on the rise, it is unsurprising the Cabinet Office conducted secret polling into public attitudes towards independence and are now running scared of making it public,” Sheppard said.

“After repeatedly failing to answer my parliamentary questions on details of the secret polling and rejecting my FOI, it is time the Cabinet Office published the results of the poll without delay and came clean on why it is disgracefully hiding the results of a taxpayer-funded poll from taxpayers themselves.

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“The Cabinet Office have said they will not publish the results because it relates to the formulation of policy – this is clearly a red herring ... the UK government have already made their position on Scottish independence clear.”

He added: “The fact the Tories are so desperate to hide these results speaks volumes. They know the growing threat of a disastrous no-deal Brexit is showing people day-by-day that independence is the only way to safeguard Scotland’s economy, jobs and public services.”

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The Cabinet Office’s FOI officer told Sheppard: “I am writing to advise you the requested information is being withheld as it is exempt under section 35(1)(a) of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (the Act), as it relates to the formulation or development of government policy.”

She added: “Section 35 is a qualified exemption and I have considered the public interest for and against disclosing the information. The Cabinet Office recognises the decisions ministers make may have a significant impact on the lives of people across the UK.

“These public interests have to be weighed against a strong public interest that policymaking and its implementation are of the highest quality and informed by a full consideration of all the options. For this reason it is important that ministers make high quality decisions informed by full consideration of the available data. Taking into account all the circumstances of this case, I have concluded that the balance of the public interest favours withholding this information.”

A Cabinet Office spokesperson said: "The UK Government regularly commissions research in different parts of the UK to understand public perceptions towards government policy.

"When considering requests for information that is used to inform the development of these policies, we balance our commitment to transparency with the need for Ministers to make decisions informed by full consideration of the available data."