Nationalist party leader Alex Salmond, who held Aberdeenshire East with 64% of the vote, said: "I hope after this result we'll see an end to negativity and scaremongering in Scottish politics – no more insults to the intelligence of the Scottish people."
The night saw the SNP take big Labour scalps as they rampaged through Glasgow and Lanarkshire. Labour leader Iain Gray managed to hang on to his East Lothian seat with a majority of just 151 votes.
His days as leader are undoubtedly numbered – and his party is now looking at five years in the political wilderness.
Mr Gray said: "These are very bad losses. This election has turned into a two party election and the SNP does seem to have been the beneficiary. That is a change in Scottish politics. I don't hide from the fact that, in that, we are not doing well."
When asked if he would stay on as leader, Mr Gray insisted he was the elected leader of the party, but refused to be drawn on his future until all the results were in. He added: "We need to do some work [to see] where we go forward from here."
As Labour was being humiliated, LibDem candidates were losing their deposits all over the country. However LibDem leader Tavish Scott managed to keep his seat in the Shetland Islands with a majority of 1617.
The night, superficially at least, had started with a degree of promise for Labour. Rutherglen, the first constituency to declare, saw James Kelly re-elected with an increased majority. But the huge shift from 23% of the vote to 39% to the SNP heralded how the rest of the evening would pan out.
Within minutes of the Rutherglen result, shock reverberated through the John Wright Sports Centre in East Kilbride as Andy Kerr lost his seat to the SNP's Linda Fabiani, his 12,410 votes failing to beat Ms Fabiani's 14,359.
Ms Fabiani said: "All during the campaign what struck me was the depth of the shift towards us. From what I'm hearing from colleagues, we're streets ahead in places we haven't traditionally been strong."
Labour's big hitter Tom McCabe lost his Hamilton, Larkhall & Stonehouse seat to the SNP's Christina McKelvie.
Mr McCabe said: "We need to face up to a different dynamic now in Scotland since devolution and maybe that hasn't been fully taken on board."
But when asked if the party's leader was to blame he replied: "It's too early to take potshots at Iain Gray."
In Renfrewshire the nationalists took not only Renfrewshire North and West but also the more unlikely target of Paisley.
Aileen Campbell beat Labour veteran Karen Gillon by more than 4200 votes for the Clydesdale Constituency, with 14,931 votes to Ms Gillon's 10,715.
Ms Campbell said: "If this is the picture of the election then this is going to be a very good night for the SNP."
On a dreadful night for the Lib Dems, Beverley Hope polled just 367 votes in Motherwell and Wishaw to finish behind both the Christian Party and the All Scotland Pensioners Party. John Pentland held the seat for Labour with a winning margin of less than 600 votes over the SNP's Clare Adamson.
But in Airdrie and Shotts, another key seat for the SNP, front bencher Alex Neil overturned a Labour majority of 2.6%, declaring: "Clearly, there is a political tsunami covering Scotland tonight."
The newly-created seat of Eastwood in East Renfrewshire also provided another shock with the Conservatives — who were widely tipped to take victory in the affluent area — failing to make ground as Labour's Ken Macintosh held on with 12,662 votes to defeat Tory contender Jackson Carlaw's 10,650. Mr Macintosh said: "This is a very good night for Labour in Eastwood, and its a ray of light in what's been a not very good night for us."
Within hours it was clear a dark night for Labour was only going to get darker.
George Adam bagged the traditional Labour stronghold of Paisley for the SNP with a small majority of just 248 votes, enough to reverse decades of Labour power in the area.
Soon after in neighbouring Renfrewshire North and West, Renfrewshire Council leader Derek Mackay defeated Scottish Conservative leader Annabel Goldie, who came third behind Labour, to take the seat for the SNP.
However recent results show Ms Goldie has held on to her place in the parliament through the regional list vote.
She said: "Alex Salmond has conducted a very effective campaign but the ultimate composition of the Scottish Parliament must not be dominated by the nationalistic tendencies of the SNP or the presidential aspirations of the leader.
"I hope Alex Salmond doesn't get carried away on the back of the results. The Conservatives will tweak him as required."
Labour's Hugh Henry held on to his seat in Renfrewshire South, while in Cunninghame North in North Ayrshire the SNP's Kenny Gibson held on to a healthy majority of 6117.
In the South Ayrshire constituency of Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley the SNP's Adam Ingram claimed victory while in East Ayrshire the party's Willie Coffey held Kilmarnock and Irvine Valley.
In Dunbartonshire's Clydebank and Milngavie, Gil Paterson of the SNP sensationally beat Labour's Des McNulty to make another SNP gain, overturning a majority of over 3000, while in Greenock and Inverclyde, Labour's Duncan McNeil held on with a slashed majority of just 511. SNP's Almond Valley candidate Angela Constance retained her seat while Linlithgow's Fiona Hyslop snatched Labour's Mary Mulligan's place with a 4091 majority.