INDEPENDENCE supporters are being asked to dig deep to help fight a “David and Goliath” legal battle around secret Government polling about the Union.

The UK Government has for years been blocking the release of polling it commissioned to gauge support for independence and the Union and now has a chance to continue “stonewalling” after a full appeal to overturn previous rulings was granted.

Tommy Sheppard, the SNP MP for Edinburgh East, has been battling with the Cabinet Office since 2021 to have the results – now long out of date – released and said the case had grown into something more “profound” about Government secrecy.

The Government has now been granted a full appeal to attempt to overturn rulings requiring it to release the data and will be represented by “big shot” Whitehall lawyer James Eadie QC.

Sheppard said a ruling in favour of the Government would “kill the right to information stone-dead”, adding that the ability to keep information secret under the exemption of “policy development” would allow ministers to engage in cover-ups “for years to come”.

He has launched a fundraiser to gather cash to pay for a lawyer to take on Eadie and the Government.

First Treasury Counsel Eadie collected nearly £8.5 million from the public purse for representing the Government in legal battles from 2008 to 2018.

He has worked on cases such as defending the Government for illegally proroguing parliament and over the Windrush scandal.

Sheppard won a case in 2021 requiring the Government to release the information but this was appealed by the Cabinet Office.

They were twice rejected, once in July and again in September 2021, to have the ruling overturned but the most recent ruling, announced to Sheppard in a letter from the Upper Tribunal on Wednesday, 15 June.

Urging Yes voters to donate to the campaign, Sheppard told The National: “The Tory Government has an army of civil servants, big shot lawyers and unlimited access to public funds in order to defend its secrecy.

“Against them, we only have ourselves. I’m determined to meet fire with fire and give them a run for their money in court but to that, we need to be properly represented and prepared.”

He added: “The amount of money the UK Government are throwing at my inquiry shows how determined they are – but also how rattled. They’ve lost three times but they’re still fighting. And now they’ve having to bring out their most senior lawyer to fight the case.

“What they’re arguing would set a nightmare precedent. It should terrify anyone who ever tries to get information out of Whitehall.

“What they’re doing is taking the exemption for 'policy development' and trying to draw it so widely as to make it include anything.

“If the court rules in their favour, the judgement will be cited in defence of every UK Government cover-up for years to come. If this happens it will kill the right to information stone-dead.

“Does anyone think the Tories were thinking about changing their minds on independence?

"They were stonewalling all approaches and weren’t even willing to entertain changes to Holyrood’s powers. This policy was set.

“Exercising our rights under Freedom of Information has become a David-and-Goliath struggle.”

A UK Government spokesperson said: "It is in the public interest to preserve a safe space for the development of policy and the provision of advice to ministers. We seek to balance our commitment to transparency with the need for ministers to make decisions on the development of policy based on data.

“We regularly commission research into public attitudes and behaviour across the UK which enables us to inform our policies and deliver effective cross-government campaigns.”

You can donate and find out more here.