NICOLA Sturgeon will visit North America next week to strengthen trade and cultural links between Scotland and the US and Canada.

The trip comes as new figures show the US remains Scotland’s top export destination, with an estimated £5.5 billion of exports in 2017, up by 11.1% on the previous year. Exports to Canada worth were £580 million. It will be the first visit to Canada by a first minister in more than 10 years. Sturgeon will have trade and culture engagements in Washington DC, New York, Ottawa and Toronto.

They include an address at Georgetown University on Brexit and Scotland’s future and the launch of the Scotland is Now campaign in Canada.

Sturgeon said: “With the shadow of Brexit hanging over our economy, it is more important than ever to reassure businesses that Scotland is an open and welcoming country and an attractive place to invest, visit and live in.”