NICOLA Sturgeon has denied that adverts placed in newspapers by the SNP over the weekend were about independence.

The First Minister told journalists at COP26 that the ads were placed to welcome people to Scotland.

Opposition politicians have expressed anger after the SNP ran newspaper ads marking COP26, quoting Sturgeon describing Scotland as a “nation in waiting”.

Sunday newspapers featured ads from the SNP welcoming delegates and leaders from countries around the world to Glasgow for the two-week climate talks.

The full page advert appeared in the Sunday National at the weekend, and in The Times, the Record and The Courier on Monday.

READ MORE: COP26: Tories fume as new Nicola Sturgeon ad calls Scotland a 'nation in waiting'

It shows a beautiful Scottish landscape, a photograph of Sturgeon and a quote from her reading: “A nation in waiting welcomes the nations of the world.”

It adds: "While not yet an independent nation, we're more than ready and able to play out part on the global stage at COP26."

Asked today by reporters at COP26 about whether the adverts were about an independence referendum campaign, with the First Minister wanting to hold a new vote by the end of 2023, she said: "We didn’t launch a campaign. We had adverts in a couple of newspapers welcoming people to Scotland.

"I think there is a difference. This conference is about climate change and I don't think anybody hearing or listening or speaking to me over the course of yesterday or today would think I’m focused on anything other than that."

But Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton insisted the adverts were about independence.

"No wonder Nicola Sturgeon is under pressure over her propaganda push. The focus of COP26 should be on saving the planet, so it's disappointing to see the First Minister exploiting Scotland's place on the global stage to push her divisive agenda," he said.

"Rather than focus on independence, the First Minister should explain why she ordered her MSPs to back plans for 75,000 more internal flights in their support for a third runway at Heathrow. That's completely incompatible with efforts to fight the climate emergency.

"Her coalition with the Greens is nothing but a gimmick to push for another referendum on leaving the UK. "

But Alba Westminster leader Neale Hanvey was surprised the First Minister was not underlining the independence goal.

He said: "During COP26 the whole planet has its eyes on Scotland. It is incomprehensible that the First Minister should be reluctant or ashamed of taking this opportunity to promote independence for our country while the world is watching."

READ MORE: Patrick Harvie to use COP26 to push Scottish independence case internationally

The First Minister was asked last week if she would be using the COP26 summit to promote Scottish independence to world leaders – but she insisted her priority was finding a good deal and putting the Earth first.

“I don’t think anybody is in any doubt about my support for Scottish independence. But the focus of the next two weeks is about making sure Scotland’s in a position to lead by example,” she told Channel 4 News.

“Scotland is seen by the UN, by countries around the world, as a global leader. But the bar of global leadership is still not high enough on the issue of climate. The Scottish Government is the co-chair right now of what’s called the Under2 Coalition, bringing state and regional and devolved governments together to make sure we’re maximising our influence. That’s what I’m going to be working as hard as possible to try to do over the duration of this summit.”

Her stance is in contrast to that of Scottish Greens co-leader Patrick Harvie who said he would be discussing the goal of independence with Green politicians from other countries attending COP26.

The First Minister was also asked today about reports of people having to walk through Kelvingrove Park in the dark because of a VIP event at Kelvingrove Museum last night.

She said: "I don’t know the detail of that. I have seen reports this morning and I'll certainly speak to the police about the circumstances of that.

"It won’t surprise you to hear that I would have concerns about any suggestion that women were put into what even they would feel was a position of not being safe.

The National:

“For obvious and understandable reasons there was a significant security operation in and around Kelvingrove last night. I think the police are doing a fantastic job here so I’m not being critical of them in any way but women’s safety at all times, particularly in light of recent concerns, is paramount.

"So if there is even a perception that women are being put in a position they weren’t safe I know the police would want to make sure that wasn’t something that happened again."

Sturgeon said she had not seen the apology from Police Scotland, but said: "If they feel that is appropriate then that would be necessary."