Nicola Sturgeon: Being first minister has been the privilege of my life
An emotional Nicola Sturgeon has told the people of Scotland: "Thank you from the bottom of my heart for the privilege of being your first minister".
The outgoing FM was applauded from the chamber after delivering her final statement in the government's top job, with the packed public gallery providing a standing ovation.
Sturgeon choked back tears as she praised her parliamentary staff and colleagues, calling John Swinney "the best deputy first minister and best friend I could have wished for".
And she offered some advice to her successor - who will be revealed after SNP leadership voting closes on Monday at noon: "Never forget every day in this office is an opportunity to make something better for someone somewhere in Scotland.
"You won't get everything right, but it's always better to aim high and fall short than not try at all."
Sturgeon will formally offer her resignation to King Charles next week. She told the parliament that "even if I live to be 100 years old, there is no phase in my life that will be as special or as meaningful to me as these last eight years".
She went on: "To lead this country is the pinnacle of what this shy, introverted... working class girl from Ayrshire could ever have dreamed of. This country is truly amazing and the people who live in this country, no matter where they came from, are also amazing."
Government colleague Patrick Harvie, co-leader of the Scottish Greens, praised Sturgeon for standing up for minorities and told her and Swinney, who is also moving to the backbenches, to "continue to infuriate all the right people".
Alex Cole-Hamilton of the Scottish Lib Dems said she had been a "voice of calm" to the public during the pandemic and had shown "tireless and substantial commitment" to her office.
Labour's Anas Sarwar cautioned that "as Scotland prepares to face a new era" it also faces " a twin crisis" over the NHS and cost-of-living.
But he called Sturgeon a "formidable" politician, saying: "While we have disagreed passionately about what's best for people, I have never doubted her love for Scotland."
He went on: "Nicola Sturgeon leaves a government and a party shaped in her image. It will not find a replacement like her. I and my entire party wish her the very best."
Tory leader Douglas Ross said he and Sturgeon "see each other as adversaries rather than allies" and that she has "for better or worse made a mark on the country" thanks to a "staying power that many of us could only ever wish for" in politics.
Ross said she had inspired girls and young women but had "too often" used her position "to further her party's political objectives", rather than governing in all of Scotland's interests.
He continued: "We have all lived through the Sturgeon era of Scottish politics and that era is now coming to an end."
Sturgeon said: "Being first minister has been variously - often all at once - challenging, exhilarating and exhausting.
"Every single day without exception, it has been an utter privilege."