The first Member of Parliament (MP), for the five Burghs, was elected at Tain in 1708. Lord Strathnaver was the eldest son of a Scottish peer. He would not have been eligible to be elected to the Parliament of Scotland. It was disputed that Strathnaver was eligible to be elected to the Parliament of Great Britain, as the representative of a Scottish seat.
On 3 December 1708, the House of Commons decided the issue, as at that time the House judged the eligibility of its members itself rather than leaving the issue to be decided by a Judge.
After the House called in counsel, the election petitions and representations in writing were read out and the lawyers put forward arguments for their clients. After counsel had withdrawn a question was formulated and put to a vote.
The proposition the House voted on was "that the eldest sons of the Peers of Scotland were capable by the Laws of Scotland at the time of the Union, to elect or be elected as Commissioners for the Shire or Boroughs [sic, see Burghs] to the Parliament of Scotland; and therefore by the Treaty of Union are capable to elect, or be elected to represent any Shire or Borough [sic] in Scotland, to sit in the House of Commons of Great Britain".
The House rejected the motion and so declared that Lord Strathnaver was ineligible to be elected an MP for Tain Burghs.
The most prominent English political figure, to represent a Scottish constituency in the 18th century, was Charles James Fox. In the 1784 general election, Fox sought re-election for the Westminster constituency. Political opponents challenged Fox's election. As Westminster had the largest electorate of any English borough, the scrutiny of votes (to check that each voter had been legally qualified to participate in the election) was thought likely to take a long time. To avoid Fox being out of Parliament, until the Westminster election petition was decided, a Scottish friend arranged for him to become member for Tain Burghs.
It took until 1786 for Fox to be confirmed as a duly elected MP for Westminster. Fox then chose to represent his English constituency and the Scottish one became vacant.
The electoral system for this constituency gave each of the five burghs one vote, with an additional casting vote (to break ties) for the burgh where the election was held. The place of election rotated amongst the burghs in successive Parliaments. The vote of a burgh was exercised by a burgh commissioner, who was elected by the burgh councillors.
The primary source for the results was Stooks Smith with additional information from the History of Parliament series. For details of the books used, see the Reference section below.
The reference to some candidates as Non Partisan does not, necessarily, mean that they did not have a party allegiance. It means that the sources consulted did not specify a party allegiance.
^It is presumed that the John Sinclair, who unsuccessfully contested this constituency in 1806, was the politician who served in the House of Commons in the previous and subsequent Parliaments. There were, however, three other contemporary baronets of the same name.