NICOLA Sturgeon has said Nato would be "vital" for the security of an independent Scotland.

During her trip to the US, the First Minister said Scotland has a "strategic position" at the northern edge of Europe.

The First Minister said joining the EU and Nato would be "cornerstones of an independent Scotland’s security policy".

During her keynote speech at the Brookings Insitute, Sturgeon discussed energy security in Europe as well as the climate crisis.

She said: "Scotland stands with the rest of the UK, the EU and countries around the world - including of course the USA – in our condemnation of Putin’s actions.

"We support the severity of economic sanctions on Russia, and also the supply of military assistance to Ukraine.

"We are also playing our part in offering humanitarian aid and supporting as many as possible of those displaced from Ukraine to find refuge in Scotland."

She said a war in Ukraine had forced European nations to ask "fundamental questions of ourselves".

She continued: "As a result, many are now reassessing long-established defence and security positions and priorities.

"The pleas of Eastern European nations for a much greater focus on the continent’s border with Russia have been heard more clearly than ever – and are now being responded to."

READ MORE: Nicola Sturgeon talks Scottish independence with top US government official

The FM pointed to Germany which reversed its long-standing position of not supplying arms to conflict zones.

She continued: "And significantly two of Scotland’s northern neighbours, Sweden and Finland, which for decades have remained outside NATO, now seem firmly on track to join the alliance - and with a level of public support that would have been unthinkable just a few months ago.

"That is highly relevant to Scotland. The party I lead, the Scottish National Party, decided in 2012 that if Scotland becomes independent it should seek membership of Nato.

"The events of the last 3 months have strengthened my conviction that this position is absolutely the right one.

"I am firm in my view that - coupled with a strong relationship with the UK - membership of the EU and of NATO will be cornerstones of an independent Scotland’s security policy.

"The Scottish Government is acutely aware of Scotland’s strategic position on the northern edge of Europe, close to the Arctic.

"Russian military aircraft regularly approach the UK’s area of interest, and in recent years there has been an increase in Russian submarine patrols within the North Atlantic.

"And so we are clearer than ever that membership of NATO would not only be vital to Scotland’s security - though it most definitely would be - it would also be the principal way in which an independent Scotland, in an interdependent world, would contribute to the collective security of our neighbours and allies."

In the event on energy security in Europe, the First Minister also stressed the importance of securing a just transition away from fossil fuels, ensuring jobs and investment were secured in communities that rely on oil and gas, as well as taking a number of swipes at former US president Donald Trump.

In her speech, Sturgeon praised the work of the US Government, in particular of climate envoy John Kerry, during Cop26 in Glasgow, and when asked later how the Americans could help Europe in ensuring energy security, the First Minister joked: “Don’t re-elect Trump.”

The former president, who opposed an offshore windfarm off the coast of the Aberdeenshire golf course he owns, has not ruled out another run for the White House in 2024.

The First Minister met US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman in the first day of her visit to the American capital on Monday.