A HOAX press release which falsely claimed a Scottish Labour minister was gay was taken so seriously it was discussed at cabinet level, official records show.

Newly opened files from the National Records of Scotland show the then Labour-LibDem Scottish cabinet was updated on the security breach in June 2005.

Ministers were also told the police had been called in to investigate the matter and internal government security tightened.

The moved followed one of the strangest episodes of the coalition government.

On June 27, 2005, an apparently official news release was issued by the administration in which Communities Minister Malcolm Chisholm declared he was in love with another man. 

The spoof quoted Mr Chisholm saying he was “gay and in love” and had been “happy for several months with a wonderful man”. 

It said: “I am aware of much speculation in media circles, and even amongst my own fellow MSPs regarding my sexuality.

"But I would today like to shake off the shackles that have bound me and announce to the world that I am gay and I'm in love.

"I will not reveal the identity of my lover but my wife and children understand my homosexual needs after long discussions.

"I will continue to support my family and live the life I have been living for many decades, only now the weight of my secret has been lifted from my shoulders and I feel free."

The statement was formatted in the same way as the Executive's routine press statements, and even included the phone number of the First Minister’s top press officer.

Mr Chisholm, an Edinburgh MSP who was nicknamed “Jessie” by colleagues but had been married for 30 years and had three children, dismissed the release as “total rubbish”.

Government officials were forced to scramble to issue denials and retractions.

Unenlightened elements of the Scottish media described the hoax as a "smear" and "slur" against Mr Chisholm.

It was reported the hoaxer would have needed three different codes and passwords to send the news release out in the name of the Scottish Executive.

This could have been done from either inside or outside a government building, most likely by a past or present press aide, or by someone briefed by them. 

The minutes of the Scottish Cabinet of June 30, 2005, included an item titled Hoax Press Release.

It said: “The Cabinet notes that Lothian & Borders police had been asked to investigate the circumstances that surrounded the distribution of a hoax press release purporting to be an official Executive press release.

“The Head of News had since taken steps to tighten security arrangements and prevent a recurrence of the incident”.

The police gave up their search for the culprit, who appeared to have sent the release from an internet cafe, in October that year.