A Scottish restaurateur has become the first UK sole trader to raise money through a social lending website, market leader Funding Circle has said.

The peer-to-peer lender said Howie's Bistro, based in Dunkeld, had raised £35,000 from 356 people in just six days last week.

Funding Circle announced two weeks ago that three million more businesses would be able to access finance directly from the public for the first time, and last week rival Zopa unveiled a similar initiative.

Peer-to-peer business lending has until now been available only to the UK's 1.3 million limited companies, but is now being extended to non-limited companies such as sole traders and small partnerships in an effort to boost access to finance for small firms.

In three years Funding Circle has lent £6.25 million to 121 Scottish businesses, with the average loan size being £50,000. Across the UK, Funding Circle has lent over £140m to more than 2500 businesses.

Howie's Bistro is expanding to a second site in the heart of Perth, but needs finance to purchase kitchen equipment to get the business up and running.

Owner Graham Howie said: "We couldn't afford to waste six months waiting to hear from the banks. Alternative ways of accessing finance such as peer-to-peer lending are invaluable."

Mike Cherry, national policy chairman, Federation of Small Businesses, said: "Small firms still rely on the banks for finance but four in 10 are refused. It is good news that more businesses, especially ones looking to grow, will be able to access peer-to-peer funds."