Westminster urged to publish independence poll

INFORMATION Commissioners in both Scotland and England have been urged to intervene in a bid to force the UK Government to reveal details of unpublished polling on attitudes to Scottish independence.

The new poll shows a rise in support for both the 'Yes' and 'No' camps. Picture: TSPL

SNP MSP Bruce Crawford has written to both Christopher Graham in England and his counterpart in Scotland, Ken Macdonald.

The UK Government has faced repeated calls from the SNP to make public the findings of the research, with Mr Crawford claiming almost £300,000 of public cash had been spent on it.

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‘Scrutiny necessary’

In his letters, he claimed the “true cost of the polling conducted by the UK Government on the independence referendum is in fact £299,100, substantially more than previously admitted”.

He said that “while this level of Government expenditure on political polling should always be considered worthy of public scrutiny”, this was “perhaps even more necessary” after press reports that the findings have been shared with the Better Together campaign to keep Scotland in the UK.

The former Scottish Government minister said he had contacted the Information Commissioners because the UK Government has failed to publish the details following Freedom Of Information (FOI) requests.

Mr Crawford said: “The UK Government has spent £300,000 of public money on what is essentially private polling for the No campaign - it is unacceptable that taxpayers are expected to bankroll the No camp in this way.

“With the true cost of this polling seemingly rising all the time - and with the UK Government refusing to publish the details in response to FOI requests - I have written to the Information Commissioners north and south of the border asking that they intervene to ensure that the FOI requests are properly responded to before the referendum.

“The UK Government has tried to fob off FOIs by saying that the polling was used to formulate Government policy. This excuse just doesn’t wash when the results have been shared with the No campaign - and the policy of the UK Government was already avowedly anti-independence.

“It doesn’t matter how bad the poll’s findings are for David Cameron and the No campaign - people in Scotland paid for these polls and they have a right to see the results in full.”

Carmichael resists calls

Scottish Secretary Alistair Carmichael was called on to publish the polls when he appeared before MSPs at a Holyrood committee last month.

He told members of the Scottish Parliament’s Economy Committee: “You know the rules as well as I do on publication of polling information, if you publish any of it you publish all of it. We’ve published none of it, we will continue to do so. That was work that was done to inform Government policy.’’

A UK Government spokesman said: “These costs have been openly and transparently put into the public domain via the Cabinet Office website. It’s normal practice for governments to carry out this sort of polling, especially around an issue as important as the referendum.

“We are carrying out this research to understand how best to identify and communicate with our audiences. The recent public polls are clear indicators of what Scotland thinks about leaving the UK.”