BORIS Johnson and Michael Gove are set to hold private talks on how to give the Union a “big push” in the face of rising support in opinion polls for Scottish independence and May’s Holyrood elections.

The Downing St meeting, said to be due in the next 24 hours or so, comes as MPs demanded the publication of the Dunlop Review on strengthening the Union, which has been sitting on the Prime Minister’s desk since December 2019.

The UK Government’s fight against the coronavirus has put several things on hold, including not only the Dunlop Review but also the Intergovernmental Report on how to improve the sometimes fractious relations between London and Edinburgh.

Both were due to be published in November but the upsurge in Covid-19 meant another delay in publication.

Whitehall sources have told The Herald that the meeting, which could also include Chancellor Rishi Sunak, is to take stock of the state of the Union.

“The polls in Scotland are a cause for concern, obviously, but there will be a big push in the spring to promote the Union,” one insider said.

In the past year there were 17 consecutive polls, which placed the cause of independence ahead; the last, in December, had it 14 points ahead.

The Dunlop Review, many of whose recommendations the UK Government is thought to have already implemented, such as moving posts outside Whitehall, is set to form part of this big Union push as part of Mr Johnson’s “2021 reset”.

It is also expected to include a keynote speech by the PM with Mr Gove, the Cabinet Office Minister, tasked with taking on the SNP in the media, taking a higher profile role in the run-up to the May 6 poll.

However, the battle against the coronavirus is dominating Government thinking and any planned push could still be put back, the sources suggested.

Yet given the so-called “pre-election period of sensitivity” better known as purdah, when governments are barred from making announcements to promote policies, then there will be a limited window of opportunity for Mr Johnson to launch his Union push to include the Dunlop Review. The purdah period could be anywhere from three to six weeks, meaning realistically the PM would have to publish Lord Dunlop’s report by Easter.

On Tuesday, the chairmen of the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish Affairs Committees in the Commons revealed they had written to Mr Gove urging him to say when the Dunlop Review would be published.

In a letter to the Cabinet Office Minister, sent on Friday, SNP MP Peter Wishart, who chairs the Scottish Affairs Committee joined Welsh MP Stephen Crabb, Northern Ireland's Simon Hoare and William Wragg, who chairs the Constitutional Affairs committee, in calling for the report's release.

They wrote: "As you know, our committees have been awaiting the publication of Lord Dunlop’s Review and the Government’s response to it for some time.

"It was, therefore, disappointing to learn that, contrary to earlier commitments, these would not be published before the end of 2020."

They explained that they had planned to hold a joint evidence session on January 28 for the Government to explain how it was going to implement the recommendations of the review and added: "In order for this session to go ahead as planned, our Members will require both Lord Dunlop’s Review and the Government’s response to be made public by 14 January.

"We would be grateful if you could confirm that the Government will be publishing the Review and the response within this timeframe.

"If you are unable to do so, we ask that you set out a clear alternative timeframe for publication so that we can arrange our scrutiny accordingly."

In November, Labour peer George Foulkes asked the Government when the report would be published and was told it would be "by the end of this year".

MPs have also been questioning the reason for the delay in publishing the document.