NICOLA Sturgeon has hit back at critics of her trip to the United States after it was claimed the visit is a “waste of taxpayer money”.

The First Minister faced snipes from Tory MSPs who claimed she was “abandoning” local issues to embark on the foreign visit.

But the SNP leader says Holyrood ministers promoting Scotland around the globe “should, quite simply, be seen as part of the job for whoever the government of the day happens to be”.

Writing in The Times ahead of a speech to the Brookings Institution in Washington DC on Monday, she defended her trip to the US.

“The SNP’s opponents try to delegitimise the Scottish Government’s international engagement,” Sturgeon wrote.

“But the reality is that Scottish ministers have been making international visits like this since the start of the devolution era, long before my party took office.

“Promoting our country overseas should, quite simply, be seen as part of the job for whoever the government of the day happens to be.”

It follow criticism from Scottish Tory chief whip Stephen Kerr and constitution spokesperson Donald Cameron.

The National:

READ MORE: FM to warn world leaders a failure to meet COP26 goals would be catastrophic'

Cameron claimed that Scots “will be outraged to see the First Minister taking her eye off the ball so soon after local elections – not to mention furious at this waste of taxpayer money in the middle of a cost-of-living crisis”.

Kerr said that Sturgeon “clearly can’t be bothered to be First Minister any more”. He added: “Leaving massive local issues under her remit behind to fly to the US to shake hands and get photos is yet more evidence she takes her role for granted, and sees devolved issues as beneath her.”

The US trip is expected to demonstrate the Scottish Government’s new “global affairs framework”, its blueprint for key global policy goals that is also meant to showcase the potential of an independent Scotland in the international arena. 

Culture minister Neil Gray posted on Twitter: "Criticism of Nicola Sturgeon extending Scotland’s links abroad says more about insularity of Brexit Britain Tories, than it does about an internationalist, progressive SNP Scottish Government."

In the column, Sturgeon warned the “pandemic, the climate crisis and Russia’s brutal illegal of invasion of Ukraine all strengthen the imperative for international co-operation and concerted action”.

She added: “Scotland must be part of that co-operation and, whatever our constitutional future, that is why visits like this one matter.”

In her speech to the think tank later, the First Minister is expected to say that missing climate change targets agreed at the COP26 summit in Glasgow would be “catastrophic”

Her speech is to include a plea to other nations to ensure that the strains placed on the international order by the conflict in Ukraine do not result in the promises made at Cop being broken.