FIRST-TIME buyers in Scotland are to be offered up to £25,000 in government loans to help them get a foot on the property ladder.

Nicola Sturgeon announced the new £150m scheme as part of a package of measures designed to make the housing market fairer.

Speaking at the SNP conference in Edinburgh, the First Minister said the national pilot scheme would open later this year and run to the end of the parliament in 2021.

Buyers who can find 5 per cent of the value of a new home will be able to borrow up to £25,000 to fund or top up their deposit.

There will be no restriction on eligible property types, no upper limit to the value of properties, and the scheme will be open to couples even if only one partner is a first-time buyer.

The loans will be secured on the equity of the home and repaid when the home is sold, avoiding monthly repayments on top of a mortgage.

Ms Sturgeon also announced moves to tackle excess short-term lets such as Airbnb in tourist hot spots such as Edinburgh and Arran.

There will be a consultation on giving new powers to let them regulate and cap short-term lets and charge them an extra tax for local services.

She also announced the fourth devolved social security benefit will start this week, with applications opening for a £250 early learning payment for low-income families when their children start nursery and the same again when they start school.

She said: “There is no two child cap or rape clause in the Scottish welfare system - and with the SNP, there never will be.”

On housing, she said: “For too many, the simple truth is that, even on decent incomes, saving for a deposit takes so long it has become a distant dream.

“Many are even paying more in rent than they would pay for a mortgage and don’t have the money left at the end of the month to save for a deposit.

“In a fair and equitable country that cannot stand. And so we will act. We will help young people with the deposits they need.”

On tighter rules on short-term lets, SNP housing minister Kevin Stewart said: “We want to ask communities, landlords, local authorities and businesses across Scotland how councils can best use their planning, health and safety and regulatory powers to support local communities, whether further powers are required – and how we can ensure that short term lets are making an appropriate contribution to local services.”

Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard said: “Help to buy too often has not worked for first time buyers, and the SNP must ensure this new support goes to people who need it.

“The devil will be in the detail.”