NICOLA Sturgeon has told a US media outlet that it is still the Scottish Government's plan to hold a referendum on independence in 2023.

Speaking to the Associated Press, Scotland's First Minister said the SNP were elected on a "very firm mandate to offer the people of Scotland" another vote on leaving the Union.

In a sit-down interview during her US tour, Sturgeon said Scotland's independence movement was an "internationalist project" - not about "turning away from the world".

She said the Scottish Government is working on plans for the next referendum, with the FM adding that her administration must take into account how the world has changed since 2014 detailing a prospectus for the next indyref.

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Asked if it was still the Scottish Government's plan to hold a referendum next year, Sturgeon said: "Yes, I was re-elected as First Minister round about the same last year, and was re-elected on a very firm mandate to offer people in Scotland that choice. We are currently working on the plans for that.

"But more importantly, perhaps on the substance, the world has changed quite markedly in many respects since 2014. So making sure that we put forward the prospectus, the case for independence that takes account of those changes, and is important and work on that is under way."

Sturgeon said it's important that Scotland, despite being a small country, "plays its full part" in trying to be a constructive voice in the world.

She said an independent Scotland should help find solutions to the challenges the world faces, adding that "independence better equips us to do that".

She continued: "And at its heart, the Scottish independence movement is an internationalist project. It's not about turning away from the world. It's not about separation.

"It's about how do we ensure that Scotland, a country with historic traditions of being a force in the world, can play that positive force in the world in the future."

The First Minister also reiterated her support for Nato, saying Scotland's position may have changed.

She pointed to Sweden and Finland, historically neutral countries that are now choosing to join Nato in light of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

She suggested the Russian war in Ukraine has only increased the popularity of Nato.

"Historically, traditionally, we'd been opposed to NATO membership for an independent Scotland," she said. "And then in 2012, we changed that but did so quite narrowly.

"Now, I'm not aware of there having been recent opinion polling in Scotland on Nato membership, but I strongly suspect that a bit like Finland and Sweden we would now find overwhelming support in Scotland for the notion that should Scotland become independent it should be part of Nato.

"Because of Scotland's geographic position, a key part of the North Atlantic, [that] means that it would be essential for our security, but also the principal way in which Scotland could contribute to the wider security of a region."

READ MORE: Joining Nato would be 'vital' to an indy Scotland's security, says Nicola Sturgeon

Sturgeon's Nato comments echo similar ones made on Monday in a speech to the Brookings Institute in which she said Russia's war has only made the case for an independent Scotland joining Nato stronger.

Sturgeon has been touring the US in a trip she said is designed to strengthen Scotland's ties with America.

Her schedule on Tuesday included a meeting with members of the US Congressional Caucus for Women’s Issues, the Friends of Scotland Caucus and the European Union Caucus.

The FM also met with officials who attended COP26 to discuss a number of issues including Scottish-US relations, equality and women’s health issues, as well as the climate agenda.