sales of electric vehicle registrations are rising twice as fast in Scotland than the rest of the UK, the motor trade industry has revealed.

Motorists registered 6,565 alternative fuel vehicles (AFVs) in Scotland last year — a 68 per cent rise on the 3,897 sold in 2016.

There were 113,821 AFVs sold in the rest of the UK, a rise of only 34 per cent on the 84,994 in 2016.

AFVs include electric vehicles powered only by mains electricity, plug-in hybrids which have a mains powered battery a back-up fuel tank, and unplugged hybrids which switch between petrol/diesel and an internal generator.

Growth in pure electric cars in Scotland outstripped the rest of the UK, with a 48 per cent rise to 903 registrations compared with a 31 per cent rise to 12,694 pure electric registrations in the rest of the UK.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has pledged to put Scotland at the forefront of the global transition from petrol and diesel vehicles to electric and other ultra-low emission vehicles. She wants to eradicate fossil fuel vehicles in Scotland by 2032, eight years ahead of the UK Government target, and work is underway to make the A9 Scotland’s first fully electric enabled highway.

Overall, vehicle registrations fell by eight per cent in Scotland, and by five per cent in England. The fall in Scotland was driven mainly by a three per cent drop in petrol vehicles. There was an overall 5.7 per cent drop in all car registrations in 2017.

The Society of Motor Manufacturers & Traders (SMMT) blamed slow economic growth and falling consumer confidence for the drop in overall registrations. SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes said: “Falling business and consumer confidence is taking a toll and confusing anti-diesel messages have caused many to hesitate before buying a new low emission diesel car.

“Keeping older vehicles on the road will not only mean higher running costs but will hold back progress towards our environmental goals. Consumers should be encouraged to buy the right car for their lifestyle and driving needs irrespective of fuel type, as it could save them money.

“2017 has undoubtedly been a volatile year and the lacklustre economic growth means we expect a further weakening in the market for 2018. The upside for consumers, however, is some very competitive deals.”

Dr Sam Gardner, acting director of WWF Scotland, said the figures point to a growing public appetite for electric vehicles. He said: “This shift in fuel and technology must be part of a plan to build a sustainable transport future that emphasises the importance of investment in public transport.”

A Transport Scotland spokesman said: “It is encouraging to see Scotland leading the way, with sales of alternative fuelled vehicles rising faster than the rest of the UK.”

Scottish Greens’ environment spokesman Mark Ruskell said: “These figures are welcome and they clearly show that Scotland is making some progress, however this growth in electric vehicles is from a tiny base across the U.K.“The real test will be in whether the Scottish Government can provide the right infrastructure and incentives to create a huge ramp up in electric vehicle use.”