PANIC has hit the “Westminster bunker” amid rising support for independence, according to the former SNP depute leader.

Angus Robertson gave the assessment as it emerged UK Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove has held a series of private talks with anti-independence politicians from across the political spectrum.

Gove has met with former first minister Jack McConnell, former chief secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander, and George Galloway, who is currently leading the anti-independence Alliance for Unity group which will field candidates in next year’s Holyrood election.

Earlier this week, Gove and Galloway exchanged words on social media about trying to widen the franchise in the next independence vote – to allow Scots-born voters living in the rest of the UK a say in the next referendum. Responding to a call by Galloway on such a widening of the franchise, Gove wrote on Twitter “interesting question”.

READ MORE: Michael Gove teams up with old rivals in effort to stop Scottish independence

Robertson said the “bizarre coalition” was a sign of panic and followed previous “stunts” by Johnson’s Cabinet ,including plans to put Union-flag branding on UK-funded Scottish projects and have Tory ministers visit Scotland more regularly.

“We now have a new and bizarre coalition of Michael Gove and George Galloway seeking to change the electorate in the face of a sustained and growing majority for Scottish independence,” said Robertson writing in The National.

“After six opinion polls conducted by three different polling companies showed a majority for Scottish independence, clearly the panic is setting in in the Westminster bunker.

“In the absence of any coherent response they have adopted desperate gimmicks and presentational stunts, including ministerial day-trips and Union-flag branding.

“Now we learn there is active co-ordination between Tory Cabinet Minister

Michael Gove and indefatigable fellow Brexiteer George Galloway. Gove has apparently also been holding discussions with former LibDem-Tory coalition colleague Danny Alexander and former Labour first minister Jack McConnell. Egged on by Andrew Neil of The Spectator, the first co-ordinated action by Gove and Galloway has been a suggestion that place of birth should be a relevant factor in voting on Scotland’s future and that Scots-born people living elsewhere in the UK should be enfranchised.”

John Swinney said the UK Government is “accepting the reality” that there will have to be a second referendum on independence.

Responding to Gove, the Deputy First Minister told the BBC the voting franchise should remain the same as the 2014 referendum. Swinney was also asked about the revelations, reported in The Times, that the UK Government minister had met privately with figures from other parties to discuss support for the Union.

He said: “This move and this talk is essentially an indication of an acceptance of the reality that we’re now facing. That support for Scottish independence is demonstrating itself at a strong, consistent Yes position and majority support for Yes which is now emerging in a number of polls.

“So I think what we’re now seeing is the UK Government accepting there will have to be a referendum on independence, and that’s a welcome position for them to take and it’s a democratic position for them to take.”

He continued: “We had a referendum in 2014 in which people took the view that this was a well-organised referendum, with the correct franchise in which the people who are eligible to vote here in Scotland were able to do so.

“And I think that served us well, there was international commendation for the strength and the quality of the process we put in place in 2014. And I don’t think we should deviate from that because of the inconvenience for the UK Government of the fact that Yes support is now demonstrating such a strong position within Scotland.”