Alex Salmond's resignation speech predicts change for Scotland
Alex Salmond has used his resignation speech as first minister to say "more change and better days" lie ahead for Scotland.
He told parliament that serving in the job for seven-and-a-half years was the "privilege of my life".
Opposition party leaders also paid tribute to his time in the role.
Nicola Sturgeon is expected to be voted in as first minister by MSPs on Wednesday, after she took over the SNP leadership at the weekend.
Mr Salmond, who is considering whether to stand as an MP in the 2015 UK election, decided to step back from frontline Holyrood politics in the wake of the "No" vote in September's Scottish independence referendum.
He said: "It has been the privilege of my life to serve as first minister for these last seven-and-a-half years.
"Any parting is tinged with some sorrow, but in this case it's vastly outweighed by a sense of optimism and confidence.
"Confidence that we will have an outstanding new first minister, confidence in the standing and the capability of this chamber and - most of all - confidence in the wisdom, the talent, the potential of the people of Scotland."
By Glenn Campbell, BBC Scotland political correspondent
Alex Salmond is going at a time and date of his choosing.
No previous first minister has been able to bow out in this way.
Donald Dewar died suddenly. Henry McLeish was forced to resign. Jack McConnell lost an election.
Despite losing the independence referendum, Alex Salmond could have hung on.
His deputy, Nicola Sturgeon, says she tried to persuade him to stay.
But his mind was made up.
After seven-and-a-half years in office, Scotland's longest serving first minister is standing down.
His last full day includes a farewell statement to MSPs and sending a letter of resignation to the Queen.
(He will formally demit office when parliament meets to choose his successor on Wednesday).
His last public appearance as first minister will be among the fans at the Scotland v England football match.
That is perhaps appropriate for a man who has dedicated his career to redefining the relationship between these two nations.
Mr Salmond, whose wife Moira looked on as he addressed MSPs, added: "Scotland has changed - changed utterly and much for the better over the 15 years of this parliament and over the seven years of this government.
"I'm happy to say with every degree of certainty that more change and better days lie ahead for this parliament and for Scotland."
The referendum on Scotland's future saw voters turn out to reject independence by 55% to 45%, on a turnout of almost 85%.
Mr Salmond, who has said he is staying on as an MSP, added: "Scotland now has the most energised, empowered and informed of any country in Europe.
"We have a new generation of citizens who understand that their opinion matters, who believe that their voice will be heard and who know that their vote can shape the society they live in.
"For all of us that should be a point of pride, a source of challenge.
For me, the sense of generational change has been a factor in deciding the time is right to move on from being first minister."
MSP Jackie Baillie, speaking on behalf of the currently leaderless Scottish Labour Party, said of Mr Salmond: "He has, without doubt, been a towering figure in Scottish politics for a decade and more.
"He has been Scotland's longest-serving first minister, and I thank him for his service to this parliament and to the country."
Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson paid tribute to the longevity of Mr Salmond, who has led his party twice, over a period of 20 years.
"If sometimes he may appear like a stuck record, the truth is that it is because Alex Salmond has stuck to the same tune over such a long period of time that - like an earworm - the lyrics have been retained in people's brains," said Ms Davidson.
"It is unusual to find a politician who, for nigh on three decades, has relentlessly made the same case over and over again, and we would be churlish not to recognise the belief, persistence and stamina that that takes."
A Rebel's Journey
The BBC is to broadcast a television documentary looking back at the political life of Alex Salmond.
BBC Scotland's political editor, Brian Taylor, speaks to the man himself, his colleagues, opponents and those who have worked most closely with him.
The hour-long programme examines whether anyone truly knows the real Mr Salmond and asks what his political legacy will be.
- You can watch the documentary on BBC One Scotland at 22:35 on Wednesday, 19 November.
- Read Brian Taylor's blog on Holyrood's changing of the guard.
Willie Rennie, the Scottish Liberal Democrat leader, said of Mr Salmond: "He's a bit like Margaret Thatcher - a marmite figure with his supporters as passionate as his detractors.
"His lasting legacy will be almost securing independence for Scotland, in the biggest democratic experience of all our lifetimes."
Quoting from the lead villain of the House of Cards TV series, Green co-leader Patrick Harvie, added: "'Nothing lasts forever', said Francis Urquhart. 'Even the longest, most glittering rein must come to an end'.
"Alex Salmond's tenure as first minister has certainly been long, by the standards of the office.
"And while his supporters might have called it glittering and his critics might compare his record with the worst misdeeds of Francis Urquhart, the truth - to be honest - is probably somewhere in between."
Earlier in the day, Mr Salmond unveiled a monument at Edinburgh's Heriot Watt University, bearing one of his famous quotes.
The commemorative stone was inscribed with the Robert Burns inspired phrase: "The rocks will melt with the sun before I allow tuition fees to be imposed on Scottish students," a comment made by Mr Salmond in 2011 while championing his government's higher education policy.