A pledge by the SNP to provide £2000 grants for first-time home buyers has been deemed ineffective in the country where it was pioneered. The study from Australia, where the scheme was cited as a model for the SNP's manifesto, says it has done little there to make the housing market fairer or help the less well off.

The SNP pledged to introduce in its first 100 days "a first-time buyer grant of £2000 to help with the costs of a new home - whether that is help with stamp duty, deposits, fees or even moving costs".

The pre-election promise was to make the grant "available to families resident in Scotland when they buy their first home in Scotland," implying that it would be universal, with no means testing.

But this would be a bad idea, according to Professor Gavin Wood of Melbourne University, who found that such grants simply bring forward the purchase decisions of those holding back because they do not yet have the money, particularly down-payments. But they have "little impact" in making the distribution of home ownership fairer.

"Though there is a small equalising impact on rates of home ownership across the Australian income distribution, the formal incidence of the subsidy among the target group of potential first home buyers is inequitable," says Mr Wood.

Shadow Communities Minister Johann Lamont said: "This proposed scheme was not targeted in any way, so all it would have done is bump up house prices by £2000."

Tory communities spokes-man Jamie McGrigor said the plan was counter-productive, giving grants to those who did not need them and fuelling house inflation.

A spokesman for the Chartered Institute of Housing in Scotland said: "If it is simply £2000 for every first-time buyer it could be a hell of a lot of money and it could have a straight knock-on effect on house prices, particularly the one-bedroom sector."

An executive spokeswoman said last night: "In government we are looking at all our proposals and they will be subject to the spending review."