A SCOTTISH Government scheme to encourage the public's take-up of electric and hybrid cars has been branded a flop after being used less than 500 times since 2011.

The Scottish Conservatives, who obtained the figures under freedom of information law, said they showed Transport Scotland’s Electric Vehicle Loan initiative had “failed”.

However the data also showed a marked acceleration in applications to the fund since 2016.

The figures showed there had been around 416 applications to the fund since 2011/12, securing 499 cars, with 416 applications expected

In addition, there had been 166 separate applications for replacement Hackney cabs.

More than a third of the applications and vehicle purchases were in 2017/18.

The loan scheme allows people to borrow up to £35,000 to cover the cost of a new pure electric or plug-in hybrid vehicle.

The Scottish Government has pledged to phase out new petrol and diesel cars and vans by 2032 and introduce low-emission zones in Scotland's four largest cities by 2020.

Tory MSP Donald Cameron said the SNP was out of step with its own policy.

He said: “It is miles away from being able to declare Scotland diesel and petrol free by 2032, which will in turn render low emission zone trials in Scotland's main cities utterly worthless.

"The SNP has been completely irresponsible when it comes to this policy.

"Instead of working with the UK Government, the rest of Europe, and even the industry itself, it's brought in its own fancy target just to be different.

"That may play well to the extreme green elements of the Yes movement, but it will infuriate ordinary drivers up and down the country."

Transport Scotland highlighted the increasing popularity of the scheme.

A spokesman said: "The Energy Saving Trust, which administers the loan on behalf of Transport Scotland, has also reported that the scheme is regularly oversubscribed and, in February alone, 101 new loan applications were received, totalling more than £2.8m.

"As a result, proposals are being considered by the Scottish Government to support this demand by increasing the level of funding for the 2018-19 period.

"The 2032 target will not see the elimination of petrol and diesel vehicles in that year but is focused on phasing out the need for new petrol and diesel cars and vans.

"In doing so, we are creating an environment that encourages innovation and investment in clean, green travel, and in Scotland's energy system. Scotland is leading by example."