Cameron vows to govern for all UK
David Cameron has vowed to govern for the whole of the United Kingdom as he returned to No 10 at the head of a majority Conservative government while the Scottish Nationalists virtually swept the board north of the border.
In a stunning election night for the Tories, the Prime Minister confounded the pollsters and pundits who had predicted another hung parliament, delivering the party's first overall majority since 1992.
The result was a crushing blow for Labour leader Ed Miliband - who saw his hopes of entering No 10 shattered - and for Nick Clegg who was left with a rump of just eight Liberal Democrats in the new parliament.
The two men declared within minutes of each other that they would be stepping down as leaders of their respective parties, with Labour deputy Harriet Harman taking over as acting leader with immediate effect.
Ukip's Nigel Farage also fell on his sword after failing in his bid to secure a Westminster seat in South Thanet, only to say that he could stand again for the leadership in September.
In a night which will go down as one of the biggest general election shocks of the post-war era there was a string of big name fallers - including Labour's Ed Balls and the Lib Dems' Vince Cable - while an SNP "tsunami" saw them take all but three Scottish seats.
The news that the Conservatives had the 326 they needed for an outright majority finally came as Mr Cameron was attending an audience with the Queen at Buckingham Palace to confirm his second term as Prime Minister.
On his return to Downing Street, he indicated a determination to build bridges after a bruising five week campaign in which the Tories were accused of jeopardising the Union by playing the "English nationalist" card.
Speaking on the steps of No 10, he said he would press ahead with the further Scottish devolution promised by the Westminster parties during the independence referendum campaign "as fast as I can".
"As we conduct this vital work we must ensure that we bring our country together. We will govern as a party of one nation, one United Kingdom," he said.
"It means bringing together the different nations of our United Kingdom. I have always believed in governing with respect.
"In this parliament I will stay true to my word and implement as fast as I can the devolution that all parties agreed for Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland."
The Prime Minister - who now faces the prospect of governing with a slender Commons majority after five years buttressed by his Lib Dem coalition partners - also reaffirmed his commitment to an in/out referendum on Britain's membership of the European Union.
He moved quickly to confirm the re-appointment of George Osborne as Chancellor of the Exchequer while also making him First Secretary of State - a title previously held by William Hague.
Theresa May will carry on at the Home Office as will Philip Hammond at the Foreign Office and Michael Fallon at the Ministry of Defence.
The final result saw the Conservatives take 331 seats, with 232 for Labour, 56 for the SNP, eight for the Lib Dems and just one each for Ukip and the Greens.
An emotional Mr Miliband apologised to supporters after seeing his hopes of government destroyed as Labour was blown away in Scotland by the nationalists' landslide while struggling to take any seats from the Conservatives.
"I am truly sorry that I didn't succeed. I have done my best for five years. Now you need to show your responsibility. Your responsibility not simply to mourn our defeat, but to pick ourselves up and continue the fight," he said.
Mr Clegg, who also announced his resignation, said he believed history would judge his party's time in government "kindly" while issuing a stark warning of the potentially "disastrous" legacy of a highly divisive election campaign.
"This now brings our country to a very perilous point in our history where grievance and fear combine to drive our different communities apart," he said.
"It's no exaggeration to say that in the absence of strong and statesman-like leadership, Britain's place in Europe and the world and the continued existence of our United Kingdom itself is now in grave jeopardy."
For Labour and the Liberal Democrats there is now the prospect of lengthy and potentially bruising leadership contests.
Ms Harman said that she would take up the reins as stand-in leader until a permanent successor was in place, at which point she would step down as deputy as well.
Mr Cameron was briefly reunited with Mr Clegg and Mr Miliband as the three men lined up awkwardly together for the VE Day commemorations at the Cenotaph in Whitehall.
In Scotland, where shadow foreign secretary Douglas Alexander and Scottish Labour leader Jim Murphy were among the casualties of the nationalist surge, former SNP leader Alex Salmond said there had been an "electoral tsunami".
Mr Salmond, who returns to Westminster as MP for Gordon, said: ''There's going to be a lion roaring tonight, a Scottish lion, and it's going to roar with a voice that no government of whatever political complexion is going to be able to ignore."
But the party was denied the clean sweep some had predicted north of the border, as the Liberal Democrats held Orkney and Shetland, Labour retained Edinburgh South, and David Mundell was returned as the only Tory MP in Scotland, holding on to Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale
The first inkling that a shock result was on the cards came with the broadcasters exit poll last night predicting the Tories would fall just short of an overall majority.
It was greeted with disbelief by former Lib Dem leader Lord Ashdown who said he would "eat my hat" if it turned out to be correct.