The first minister and SNP leader claimed the ads were merely designed to “welcome” leaders and campaigners to Scotland for the crucial Cop26 climate summit in Glasgow.
Opposition parties in Scotland expressed outrage over the ads marking the Cop26 talks and quoting Ms Sturgeon as saying: “A nation in waiting welcomes the nations of the world.”
The advert also stated: “While not yet an independent nation, we’re more than ready and able to play out part on the global stage at Cop26.”
Asked on Tuesday if they were aimed at boosting the party’s campaign for independence, Ms Sturgeon said: “We didn’t launch a campaign. We had adverts in a couple of newspapers welcoming people to Scotland.”
The first minister added: “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.”
Scottish Conservatives accused Ms Sturgeon of pursing her own “obsession” during a summit focused on action to tackle the climate crisis. The party’s constitution spokesman Donald Cameron said the ads were “disappointing, but very predictable”.
The Tory MSP added: “Even when world leaders are in Glasgow to focus on the future of the planet, the first instinct of the SNP is to push their divisive independence obsession.”
Scottish Lib Dem leader Alex Cole-Hamilton also accused the party of being “obsessed with independence” at a time when “the world is coming together with the mission of solving the biggest problem humanity has ever faced”.
Ms Sturgeon was asked during an interview with CNN at the Cop26 summit if she still planned on pushing ahead with a second independence referendum in 2023. “Absolutely – that’s my plan,” the first minister replied.
The Independent revealed in September how Downing Street had been plotting how to cut Ms Sturgeon and her team out of Cop26 talks to prevent the first minister stealing the limelight.
Advisers at No 10 and the Cabinet Office had discussed how to prevent this autumn’s landmark Glasgow summit becoming an “advert” for Scottish independence, according to meeting notes and WhatsApp messages.
Meanwhile, Ms Sturgeon said on Tuesday that the steps taken in the first days of the Cop26 summit in Glasgow have been “positive”, bit it was important to see the detail of various announcements being made.
“I think yesterday there was a sense of momentum but where that momentum will take us over the next couple of weeks remains to be seen,” she said.
The first minister also told journalists she had briefly spoken to US president Joe Biden during a lavish reception at Kelvingrove Museum after the first day of the talks.
“I spoke to [Mr Biden] briefly last night at Kelvingrove,” she said. “I welcomed him to Scotland, we had a very brief conversation about the importance of the climate discussions.”
Ms Sturgeon also said she has “concerns” about a police operation which saw some women attending the conference having to walk through Kelvingrove Park in the dark while part of Cop26 cordoned off.
“I’ll certainly speak to the police about the circumstances of that,” she said. “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.”
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