ESTATE agents say a scheme which provides first-time buyers with funding to purchase a home is driving the recovery in the property market.

A new report has hailed the Scottish Government's Help to Buy scheme as the spark that is fuelling rising house prices and month-to-month growth.

The Help to Buy scheme offers prospective homeowners funds worth up to 20% of the value of the house they are looking to buy, provided it is a newly built property worth less than £400,000.

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Since being launched at the end of last year, it has helped hundreds get a foot on the property ladder and spurred growth further up the chain.

The data from LSL Property Services/Acadata House Price Index also showed the value of an average property in Scotland rose by 3.6% to £160,678 between February last year and February this year.

Gordon Fowlis, regional managing director of Your Move, a part of LSL, said the property market is pulling away from the slump seen in recent years after the crash of 2007.

He said: "Help to Buy has been the spark driving the engine of recovery for the Scottish housing market. With sustained growth taking hold, there are now signs that the independence debate is less likely to rock the housing recovery boat.

"However, there's still some uncertainty surrounding the ramifications of an independent Scotland for the banking sector.

"The potential fiscal impact may be felt in mortgage accessibility and employment stability, which in turn could have a knock-on effect on housing."

The report found that prices rose in 23 out of 32 council areas, with Inverclyde seeing the highest rate of annual growth at 16%.

The most expensive properties were found in Edinburgh, where the average house costs £229,253, while those in Glasgow are worth £132,265, up 6.5% on last year.

Mr Fowlis added: "This urban renaissance is being driven by first-time buyers benefiting from Help to Buy, typically taking the plunge in vibrant cities. Under Help to Buy more people have been able to move from rental properties into their own home, and this has created a ripple effect unlocking greater movement further up the ladder."

The number of house sales in Scotland rose by 12% between January and February, with Inverclyde also topping the table.

The Index was released on the same day as figures from the Office for National Statistics showed house prices are now rising "strongly" across most parts of the UK.

The ONS statistics revealed that after values leapt 9.1% year-on-year to a new average high of £253,000, all regions across the UK saw prices rise, ranging from a 17.7% increase in London to a 2.4% rise in Scotland.

London continues to drive the market, with property prices there now standing at £458,000 on average. Prices in England are rising at their slowest in the North East, which recorded a 2.9% annual rise, pushing typical prices there to £146,000.

A Scottish Government spokesman said: "There is no doubt that getting on to or moving up the property ladder has become tougher in recent years, which is why our Help to Buy scheme is crucial in helping more households take that step.

"Latest figures from the start of April show that 766 people have so far benefited from the scheme, with hundreds more going through the application process.

"As LSL Scotland's findings show, the scheme is not only helping more people achieve home ownership and support the housing industry but is also encouraging economic growth."