A HOAX press release that falsely reported that a Scottish Labour minister was gay was taken so seriously that, official records indicate, it was addressed at cabinet level.
Newly opened files from the National Archives of Scotland reveal that in June 2005, the then-Scottish Labour-LibDem Cabinet was told of the security breach.
Ministers were also informed that police had been called in to investigate the matter and that there had been a tightening of internal government security arrangements.
One of the coalition government’s strangest episodes was followed by the transfer.
On June 27, 2005, the government released a seemingly official press release in which Malcolm Chisholm, Minister for Communities, announced that he was in love with another man.
The parody quoted Mr. Chisholm as saying he was “gay and in love” and had been “happy with a wonderful man for several months.”
He said, ‘I am aware of a lot of speculation about my sexuality in media circles and even within my own fellow MPs.
But I want to throw off the shackles today that have tied me and declare to the world that I am gay, that I am in love.
I’m not going to disclose my lover’s name, but my wife and kids understand my homosexual needs after long discussions.
“I will continue to support my family and live the life I have lived for many decades, only now the burden of my secret has been lifted from my shoulders and I feel free.”
The statement was formatted in the same manner as regular press releases from the executive branch and also contained the phone number of the top press secretary of the First Minister.
The release was dismissed as “Jessie” by Mr. Chisholm, an Edinburgh MP dubbed “total nonsense.” by his colleagues but who has been married for 30 years and has three children.
Officials of the government were forced to hurry to give denials and retractions.
“The hoax was called a “smear” and “vilification” of Mr. Chisholm by unenlightened sections of the Scottish media.
It was stated that to submit the press release on behalf of the Scottish government, the hoaxer would have required three separate codes and passwords.
This could have been achieved either from inside or outside a government house, most likely by a former or current press assistant or someone briefed by them.
An item titled Hoax Press Release was included in the Scottish Cabinet minutes of June 30, 2005.
The Cabinet reports that Lothian & Borders Police was ordered to investigate the circumstances that led to a hoax press release being circulated, purporting to be an official press release from the Executive.
“The head of intelligence has since taken steps to tighten security and prevent a repeat of the incident.”
Police stopped the hunt for the suspect in October of that year, who apparently sent the release from the Internet cafe.