With emotional words and strong applause, Scotland’s outgoing Prime Minister Nicola Sturgeon said goodbye in the regional parliament. “Words will never express the gratitude and awe in my heart for the opportunity to serve as your First Minister,” Sturgeon said Thursday. The office was “the privilege of my life”. After eight years – longer than anyone before her – it was time to step aside, said the 52-year-old in Edinburgh.

Sturgeon is considered the face of the independence movement. She was the first woman to hold the highest government office in Britain. She surprisingly announced her resignation in mid-February. Her Scottish National Party (SNP) plans to announce the successor on Monday. The candidates are Treasury Secretary Kate Forbes, Health Secretary Humza Yousaf and ex-Cabinet member Ash Regan. The new party leader will most likely also become First Minister. Sturgeon then wants to continue to sit in the regional parliament as a simple member of parliament.

She also made mistakes during her tenure, Sturgeon acknowledged. “And of course there are things I would have liked to have done better or differently. But overall and overwhelmingly I’m proud of what I’ve achieved,” she said. Political opponents also paid tribute to Sturgeon, who seemed moved to tears.