GO north from the Strand, past the Gothic revival drama of the Royal Courts of Justice and you’ll come to a lifeless thing made of steel and glass called the Rolls Building.

It doesn’t look like much from the outside and inside is more passport office than important court, but the Rolls Building has hosted a number of high-profile cases involving Prince Harry, Johnny Rotten, Ed Sheeran and Cliff Richards, to name a few.

On Tuesday, it held something which outwardly might appear quite dull. Tommy Sheppard has been battling the Cabinet Office for four years to release polling it conducted back in 2019 on the strength of the Union.

So what? It's miles out of date and of practically no relevance anymore, you might say.

But Sheppard’s dogged campaign has been borne out of the belief this is a crucial test case in the UK’s Freedom of Information (FOI) laws.

The UK Government can refuse to release information if it is informing the development of policy, which is quite a broad exemption, though you might not expect it to be invoked in something as static as the Westminster Government’s opposition to its own disintegration.

READ MORE: 'Common sense' to release secret Union polling, court told

Sheppard’s argument is if they can invoke such a distinction in that case, it effectively gives the Government a “licence for secrecy” on anything they like.

The SNP MP's lawyer, Raphael Hogarth of 11KBW, said the Cabinet Office’s arguments would give the Government an “absurdly wide” ability to refuse to publish information.

Hogarth is no slouch; he used to be a leader writer for The Times and a researcher at the Institute for Government before being called to the bar in 2020, which is about as bad a year to be called as you can get.

In court six of the Rolls Building (an entirely forgettable-looking room, which is not worth describing) he faced off against the Cabinet Office’s man Ivan Hare KC, of Blackstone Chambers.

The National:

Those eagerly following this case will note that man is not James Eadie KC, arguably the UK Government’s number one lawyer in cases like this.

No harm to the very well-credentialled Hare, but the UK Government were so keen to have their top choice in court that they unsuccessfully tried to have the hearing postponed until he was available.

Judge Alastair Wright, a softly spoken Scot, presided over the hearing in which he chided the UK Government for the delays experienced by Sheppard in his attempts to force the release of the information, including their attempt to have Tuesday's hearing pushed back.

Judge Wright had allowed the UK Government’s request for an appeal against an earlier ruling by a lower court, which ordered the Cabinet Office to release the polling and appeared to have more sympathy with their arguments.

Closing the hearing at around 4.20pm, Judge Wright said he would decide whether to send the matter back to the First Tier Tribunal (what the Cabinet Office wants) or uphold the judgment of that court in an earlier hearing (what Sheppard wants).

In any case, he pledged to do it quickly, seeming as bemused as most observers of this case have been with its frequent delays and twists.