NEWS14 July 2021

Government appeals union polling ruling

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UK – The UK government is to appeal a ruling which would see it disclose information about polling conducted on public attitudes to the union.

Frayed union flag next to frayed Scotland flag

Last month, the First-tier Tribunal (General Regulatory Chamber) Information Rights ordered the Cabinet Office to release the information within 28 days, after an appeal from Scottish National Party MP Tommy Sheppard.

Sheppard initially made a freedom of information request in June 2019 about public polling conducted since January 2018 on perception of the union, including how much money had been spent on it.

The Cabinet Office did not release the information, citing an exemption clause relating to the development of government policy. 

In June, the tribunal ruled that the information requested about the polling "relates to the implementation of existing policy rather than to policy development". The 28-day deadline expired on 12th July and the Cabinet Office has said it will appeal the ruling. 

A UK government spokesperson said: "We disagree with the tribunal’s conclusions and have requested permission from the court to appeal. On that basis the information has not been released."

The SNP has criticised the government’s decision to appeal the ruling and has called for a public inquiry into whether it used funds intended for Covid-19 procurement to conduct research related to constitutional issues. 

Tommy Sheppard, constitutional affairs spokesperson for the SNP, said: "I have long suspected that Mr Gove did not want the information surrounding secret polling made public – his decision to appeal the tribunal’s ruling further enhances that suspicion. If he has nothing to hide, why does he feel the need to appeal?

"This UK government are hiding vital information from the general public – full transparency on how their money has been misspent is urgently required."