THE UK Government is bidding for a repeat of a tribunal hearing it has already lost as the protracted battle to force the Tories to publish secret polling on the Union enters its fifth year.

Tommy Sheppard MP, the SNP’s constitution spokesperson at Westminster, said that Rishi Sunak’s government should publish the information and end the “unnecessary and expensive game of cat and mouse”.

It comes after the Westminster government was ordered by a First Tier Tribunal (FTT) to release its internal surveys on Scottish independence following a Freedom of Information request from Sheppard – which was first put in in the summer of 2019.

READ MORE: UK’s bid to conceal Union poll ‘threatens Freedom of Information Act'

The UK Government initially rejected the request, a decision which was then upheld by the Cabinet Office and the Information Commissioner. It cited Section 35 of the Freedom of Information Act, which states that information does not need to be released to the public “if it relates to … the formulation or development of government policy”.

However, an FTT, led by Judge Stephen Cragg KC sitting with two specialist members, overruled the rejection and said that the information had to be published.

The tribunal ruled that secret polling on the Union did not relate to the development of new policy, as the Government’s mind on the issue was already made up. It also said that the inherent public interest in the polling would likely mean it should be published regardless.

But the UK Government has refused to accept the decision, taking its appeal to an Upper Tribunal (UT) – after which its only recourse will be the higher courts, including the Supreme Court.

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However, the Tories are instead trying to have the FTT hear their case for a second time, arguing the first erred in its judgment and there is more evidence to consider.

Sheppard urged the UK Government to stop wasting taxpayer money fighting to keep the polling a secret.

He told The National: “My three-year battle with the Cabinet Office over the disclosure of secret Union polling has become an unnecessary and expensive game of cat and mouse with protracted delays and appeals.

“Now, they want to kick this case further into the long grass by asking the Upper Tribunal to punt it back to the First Tier Tribunal for determination – the very court which ordered them to make the information public.

“It’s clear that, despite their big shot lawyers and unlimited access to taxpayers’ money, the UK Government are running out of options. How much more public funds must they waste during a deepening cost-of-living crisis? They should just stop digging now and publish the data without delay.”

The Cabinet Office previously insisted that the “it is in the public interest to preserve a safe space for the development of policy and the provision of advice to ministers”.

The UK Government has hired James Eadie KC, one of its most senior lawyers who previously represented the Tories in cases including the Article 50 litigation and the prorogation of parliament, to fight Sheppard’s bid to have the polls published.

The Cabinet Office has previously refused to disclose how much taxpayers’ money it has spent on its dogged refusal to release the information.