MICHAEL Gove has been trying to set up an anti-independence unit for five months – but the process has descended into "chaos" because Whitehall blocked his attempts to staff it with civil servants.

That’s according to political commentator James Cusick, who says Gove and Dominic Cummings are now seeking to appoint partisan "attack dogs" to the Unionist cell.

The Sunday Times reported over the weekend that the Cabinet Office minister is setting up a new UK Government team to tackle the rising tide of Scottish independence support.

READ MORE: This is what we can expect if Michael Gove unleashes his Unionist 'attack dogs'

But Cusick – a former BBC and Independent correspondent who is now editor of openMedia at openDemocracy – asserted that Gove had in fact tried to get the unit up and running in June, even interviewing candidates and offering jobs to around six civil servants. “Instead of this unit being set up, being announced, and the fanfare being blared nothing has happened,” Cusick explained.

This is said to be because senior Whitehall officials objected to the “politicisation” of the civil service, arguing the unit is “too overtly political” to be staffed by civil servants.

Cusick, citing unnamed sources, continued: “Apparently the chaos comes down to Gove having told people the job is theirs and the human resources department inside the Cabinet Office writing them and saying ‘the job is not yours’.

“This level of chaos is almost unprecedented. If the Union is at the top of their priorities for something that they need to fight then this is a strange way of going about fighting a priority.”

Instead of hiring from within Whitehall, Gove and Cummings will have to appoint private contractors to the Union unit.

It's understood that a minimum of two full-time government press officers will be charged with tackling SNP publicity as part of the move, with special advisers also expected to be added to the team.

“They’re not like a single MP sitting there calling himself the Union unit and basically being ignored," Cusick said. "This is a group of high-powered attack dogs who need to get on the Gove agenda.”

READ MORE: Michael Russell rubbishes Michael Gove's 'nonsense' claims about Scots ministers

According to the Sunday Times, Gove has renewed efforts to launch the Union unit amid concerns about soaring support for Scottish independence.

An unnamed Conservative party strategist told the paper: “Within government there’s a lot of unfocused and panicky activity. The unit has become a Brexit unit and about how the UK Government can raise its profile in Scotland.”

Suggestions of panic were echoed by the SNP, who said Gove has been “rumbled”.

Michael Gove has been 'rumbled' trying to politicise the civil serviceKeith Brown: UK Government is panicking about soaring support for independence

READ MORE: Alister Jack admits Brexit is fuelling Scottish independence support

Depute leader Keith Brown told The National: “These revelations show that the panic levels in Downing Street about the growing support for independence are red hot.

“And now the Tories have been rumbled trying to politicise the civil service. All because they know that their denial of a fresh referendum is totally undemocratic and utterly unsustainable.

“While the SNP and the independence movement is powered by thousands of small donations the UK Government are trying to abuse public money.

“Fact is, the majority for independence is growing, as more and more people now know Scotland can be better making our own decisions with the full powers of an independent country."

A UK Government spokesperson said only that they "do not recognise" the claims made by Cusick.