There is nothing as trendy as politics. At least not when you want to push your agenda on social media.

For years experts have been tracking automated and semi-automated accounts which try to “game” the complex algorithms which determine what we all see on our Twitter or Facebook feeds.

Many have blamed these so-called ‘bots’ on Russia, either on private businesses or on its current government’s propaganda machine.

But specialists monitoring online conspiracy theories about Alex Salmond - and the allegations against him - have spotted a new online weapon: the McBot.

Scottish online activists appear to have set up automated or semi-automated accounts to retweet a hashtag #dissolvetheunion.

Ben Nimmo, an analyst for Nato-linked think tank the Atlantic Council, found 10,000 tweets using the hashtag from just over 2000 accounts in just a week. This level of hashtag use, he said, was double what you would expect in spontaneous traffic.

Mr Nimmo said: “It looks like there a deliberate attempt by a relatively small user group to make the hashtag trend. Some were bots, some looked like human users.

“There‘s no reason to suppose they were Russian: this looked like a local attempt to hijack the trends.”

Accounts using the #dissolvetheunion last week were prominent in spreading clams or innuendo about the investigation in to the former first minister and current host on a Putin TV channel.

One tweeted: “To succeed in the British State the establishment will have dirt on you, that’s how they control you.

“If you’re a threat to the establishment they will trap you, failing that smear you. Whatever happens the State must win. #DissolveTheUnion.”

Mr Nimmo, meanwhile, stressed Russian state broadcasting outlets had “jumped to Mr Salmond’s defence” after allegations surfaced.

He said: “RT and Sputnik both ran stories on his accusations against the Scottish government; neither one bothered to include the government’s response. That’s not journalism.

“It’s worth remembering that Salmond has his own show on RT, so this partly looks like the Russian outlets coming to the defence of one of their own.”

He added: “It’s also worth remembering that Ofcom found the first episode of the Alex Salmond Show guilty of materially misleading the audience.

“RT tweeted about this, but only got 19 retweets. It’s not likely that this will add to Salmond’s credibility. It’s more likely to harm it.”

Mr Nimmo cited online stories from RT and Sputnik with no right of reply. RT, meanwhile, said that it did include the Scottish Government's point of view in its broadcasts and provided examples.