TOMMY Sheppard is to face the Cabinet Office in court over a long-running battle to force the UK department to publish secret polls on attitudes to the Union and independence.

Ministers have continually blocked the documents being put into the ­public domain since the SNP MP first requested them back in June 2019.

A breakthrough appeared to ­happen in May this year when, after failing to get the UK Government’s initial refusal overturned through the internal appeal’s process, the matter ended up with an external tribunal.

The First tier tribunal gave the ­department – then led by Michael Gove but now by Stephen Barclay – 28 days to publish the files, but it once again refused and lodged an ­appeal against the judgement which was initially rejected.

READ MORE: Cabinet Office refuses to reveal cost of FOI battle over ‘secret’ Union polling

The Cabinet Office made a legal challenge regarding that decision and it has now been confirmed a hearing will take place.

Sheppard said he will represent his own case at the hearing and appealed to Barclay to do so too in order to save taxpayers’ cash.

Ministers insist the polls ­cannot be published and are exempt from ­freedom of information laws as they relate to the formulation of ­Government policy.

But Sheppard argues the UK ­Government’s policy to support the Union and oppose independence is already a matter of public knowledge and ministers have underlined it is not going to change.

A letter sent earlier this week to Sheppard from the Upper Tribunal (Administrative Appeals ­Chamber) confirmed that the appeal by the ­Cabinet Office to the decision ­backing Sheppard’s case would be heard. No date has yet been set.

Court papers sent by Judge ­Stewart Wright of the Upper Tribunal state: “There shall be an oral hearing to reconsider the decision to refuse the Cabinet Office permission to ­appeal.

“The oral hearing shall be a face to face hearing before me in London with a time estimate of 90 minutes. The Cabinet Office must attend or be represented at that hearing.”

Sheppard told The National he was looking forward to having his day in court and adding that he would ­represent himself.

“I fully intend to represent ­myself in court. I don’t have a budget for ­legal advice and even if I had I wouldn’t want to wast the taxpayers’ money on this. It would be good if Stephen ­Barclay took a similar view but I suspect they are going to run up their legal bill even further,” he said.

Sheppard said the whole battle could have been prevented if the ­Cabinet Office simply handed over the polling information.

He said he was “at a loss to ­understand” why the polls had not been released, adding that he ­believed either the Cabinet Office were afraid to release the information as they didn’t want the public to see it or were concerned that the case could set a precedent.

“I await with bated breath to see what convoluted excuse they will come up with to avoid disclosing this information,” he said.

“Either the information is ­embarrassing to the Government or they are worried about setting a ­precedent that would require them to release further information.

“Given that we have an Ipsos MORI poll saying 55% of people ­support ­independence, it’s hard to see what data that they have ­collected that would be embarrassing for the ­Government than what we already know from public polling. Perhaps it’s to do with attitudes towards the Prime Minister?”

Separately Sheppard had lodged a freedom of information request to find out how much the long-running battle over access to “secret” polls on attitudes to the Union and independence had cost. This too was rejected by the Cabinet Office.