A NEW Scot has issued a challenge to indy “tech-heads” to solve the mystery of a response to a freedom of information (FoI) request to the Scottish Government which appears to be fake.

Gregg Brain suspects some “Fifth Column” activity with the response which effectively says the Scottish Government has been sitting on its hands over planning for independence.

He said: “I have serious reasons to think that the letter is fake. It's been doing the rounds of many vociferously pro-Alba social media pages, to much outrage, which I suspect was its intended purpose from the outset.”

Brain, an Australian who lives in the Highlands with his wife and son, said it was a typo that piqued his interest, but admits that the harder he looked, the worse the letter became.

“The heading ‘Response to your request’, with its too-many spaces, made me blink,” he said.

“I know from personal FoI experience that these government letters are nearly always shell documents, with the date field, salutation, headings etc already filled in.

“I used to draft these shell docs myself. People can certainly make typos in government letters, but the headings are nearly always right.

“I also thought it more than passing strange that a ScotGov FoI response letter was required to detail the actions for independence taken up to July this year – and yet completely neglected to mention the appointment of Angus Robertson in the new role of Constitution Secretary in May, just weeks earlier.”

He searched the Scottish Government’s FoI database for the phrase “updating the Scottish Government's plan for an independent Scotland”, which appeared in the response, and was unlikely to have been written anywhere else.

However, his search returned zero results, which made him even more curious.

“Fraudsters on things like this are always missing some small detail, and I noticed that it referred to ‘the Scottish Government's Plan for an independent Scotland from 2014’. But the white paper ‘Scotland's Future’ was published in November 2013. Nobody responding to this application would get that wrong. So I kept looking.

“And there it was. The critical mistake. The footer.

“Have a look at the footer of the purported letter, and the genuine one to Bob Freel, serious FoI dude over at What Do They Know. Both letters are (theoretically) from July this year, from the same office of the Scottish Government.

“The ‘Investors in People’ logo is set out differently, and the real letter doesn't use the RNIB's ‘Double Tick – Positive About Disabled People’ accreditation at all. Instead, it uses the government's own ‘Disability Confident’ logo.”

Brain kept checking further and found the footer in the real letter was in use more than a year ago and is still used on an FoI letter from this month.

He added: “As far as I can ascertain, there's no reasonable way that the letter in the first image actually originated in St Andrew's House.

“I suppose that there's some extremely slim possibility that someone used the wrong letterhead, made date errors and failed to follow the ScotGov letter-writing style guide, while typing in the wrong shell document, then forgot about Angus Robertson on an FOI response that they then also forgot to publish on their own database – but really, how far are you going to stretch credulity?

“So here's the challenge – is there anyone out there with the IT skills to dig into the metadata behind the image, and tell where it came from? If it came from the Scottish Office, or Denison Barracks [The home of 77th Brigade], then this is serious news.

“Over to you, indy tech-heads.”