A CAMPAIGNING MP has lashed out at the UK Government for covering up secret polling about the Union as he surrendered his five-year battle to have the data released.

Edinburgh MP Tommy Sheppard has said he was left with “no option but to drop this specific case” because of the UK Government’s intransigence.

He had been attempting to force the Government to release secret polling it commissioned into people’s attitudes towards the Union.

Despite a number of court appeals, the UK Government has refused to release the information, arguing it related to policy development and so was exempt from Freedom of Information laws.

Sheppard told the Sunday National: “The UK Government has spent significant amounts of taxpayers’ money finding out what people think about the Union.

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“They are duty-bound to release this information which they are keeping secret but instead of meeting this simple request, their approach to the case has been to undermine freedom of information and the public interest.

“It’s been shocking to see the lengths the UK Government will go to just to avoid releasing information that is clearly in the public interest.

“It has now reached a point where it’s obvious they will spend any amount of money needed and do everything they can to keep this going for years more and they’ve left us with no option but to drop this specific case.”

He said the UK Government now had “serious questions” to answer over how much they had paid lawyers to keep the data secret during Sheppard’s five-year campaign to have it published.

Sheppard added: “They are treating the public with contempt and acting like the public purse is their own biscuit tin. It’s important to know how much they have spent fighting the case and this is something we will keep demanding answers on.

“Is the UK Government so afraid of the views of the Scottish people? Could this information show what most of us already know?

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“That the people of Scotland think independence is an important part of the future of Scotland and that most folk know the Union will never be able to deliver the better Scotland that people want.”

Sheppard said it would be “futile” to continue his battle against the Government, but added: “We will continue to press for transparency and look to every avenue open to us to keep the people of Scotland informed.”

A decision from the Upper Tribunal of the Administrative Appeals Chamber in Sheppard’s case against the Cabinet Office and the Information Commissioner published in March allowed the UK Government to appeal a decision by a lower authority to have them publish the data, effectively resetting the process.

The UK Government was approached for comment.