PETROL and diesel cars and vans should be phased out in Scotland by 2032 in a bid to make the country a leader in the global shift to electric vehicles, Nicola Sturgeon has said.

Setting out a series of linked measures on the economy, infrastructure, transport and the environment, Ms Sturgeon said the move would be eight years before the rest of the UK.

The change, which will require creating a nationwide network of charging points, is intended to project Scotland to the world as a place in which to invest in future technologies.

The First Minister told MSPs: “To encourage others to see Scotland as the place to research, design and manufacture their innovations – for us to become a laboratory for the rest of the world in the digital and low-carbon technologies that we want to champion – we must also become early adopters of them.

“The transition from petrol and diesel cars and vans to electric and other ultra-low-emission vehicles is underway and gathering pace. “We intend to put Scotland at the forefront of that.

“Our aim is for new petrol and diesel cars and vans to be phased out in Scotland by 2032 – the end of the period that is covered by our new climate change plan and eight years ahead of the target that was set by the UK Government.”

Although Holyrood does not have the power to ban the sale of petrol and diesel cars in Scotland, or to ban them from crossing the power, the plan is to offer a comprehensive charging infrastructure that makes electric cars the natural choice.

“Over the next few months, we will set out detailed plans to massively expand the number of electric charging points in rural, urban and domestic settings,” Ms Sturgeon said.

“We will also make the A9, already a major infrastructure project, Scotland’s first fully electric-enabled highway.

“It sends a message to the world: we look to the future with excitement, we welcome innovation and we want to lead that innovation.

“That ambition will help stimulate economic activity, but it is also part of our plans to improve our environment and the quality of the air that we breathe.”

She said the government would extend the fund for green buses to speed up the use of electric and ultra-low emission vehicles in both the public and private sectors.

There would also be a new Innovation Fund to invest £60m in low carbon energy, including electric battery storage, sustainable heating systems and electric vehicle charging points in built-up urban areas.

Friends of the Earth Scotland described it as the greenest programme for government in Holyrood history.

Director Dr Richard Dixon said: “Pomises here will reduce climate change emissions, save people from air pollution and help Scotland become a leading example of a low carbon country.”

Gina Hanrahan of WWF Scotland, said: “Decarbonising our transport sector in fifteen years will create new jobs, cut emissions and clean up our polluted air.

“This announcement will help accelerate the shift to electric vehicles and sets us up to lead the technologies of the future.”

Jenny Hogan of Scottish Renewables, said: “A focus on ultra-low emission vehicles, and particularly a drive to encourage their uptake by public bodies, will help move our transport system to one powered increasingly by renewables.”

Outlining other economic measures, Ms Sturgeon told MSPs “Scotland must lead change, not trail in its wake”, and be a centre for digital, hitch tech and low carbon industries.

She said the government would increase investment in business research and development by 70 per cent to generate an estimated £300m more over the next three years.

There would also be a new network of trade envoys, and support for financial technology (Fintech) with a goal of Edinburgh being in the top ten Fintech centres in the world.

The recent Barclay Review of business rate reform would be taken forward “quickly” with an implementation plan published by the end of the year, she said.

Work would also start on a new Scottish National Investment Bank , with outgoing Tesco CEO Benny Higgins developing its remit, governance and operating model.

The Tories reacted with scorn, saying the SNP had been touting the same bank for years.

The Scottish Chambers of Commerce applauded the Government’s ambition for Scotland “to be the inventor and the producer, not just a consumer, of the innovations that will shape the lives of our children and grandchildren.”

However it noted a lack of detail and timescales, and urged greater “clarity”, including on the Investment Bank.

Ms Sturgeon also announced a “deposit return scheme for drinks containers” to boost recycling and cut down on litter.

Willie Mackenzie of Greenpeace UK called it “a massive step in stopping plastic pollution”.

However the Packaging Recycling Group Scotland warned the move could “undermine local authority waste systems, inconvenience consumers, harm small shops with limited storage capacity to handle dirty returns while adding costs to household bills”.