Single Member Scottish County

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1754-1790, ed. L. Namier, J. Brooke., 1964
Available from Boydell and Brewer

Background Information

Alternated with Buteshire

Number of voters:

23 in 1788


4 May 1754John Scott of Balcomie
11 Apr. 1768Kenneth Mackenzie, Visct. Fortrose
 John Dalyell
30 Sept. 1780John Sinclair of Ulbster

Main Article

The leading interest in this small county was that of the Sinclair family, and particularly of the Ulbster branch. George Sinclair of Ulbster was married to the sister of William, 17th Earl of Sutherland, and the two families collaborated in the county in the early part of the period. Neither John Scott, returned in 1754, nor Lord Fortrose, returned in 1768, had any property in Caithness. Scott was at that time a friend of the Sutherlands, and Fortrose was brought in as a Government supporter. John Dalyell of Craigfudie, Fifeshire, who stood against Fortrose in 1768 and was beaten by a ‘very scrimp [scanty] majority’,1 was the nephew of John Scott of Balcomie, and presumably fought on the remnant of his uncle’s interest.

The understanding between the Sinclairs and the Sutherlands was shattered in 1774, when the young Sir John Sinclair launched at attack upon Tain Burghs, represented by James Grant, a friend of the Sutherlands. In 1780, when Sir Adam Fergusson urged Sinclair to unite with the Sutherlands, he complained of his ill-usage at the previous election, ‘after we had supported the family of Sutherland for above thirty years’. He had already declared himself a candidate for Caithness, and wrote: ‘The freeholders in this county have been extremely favourable to me in my canvass here, and I have every reason to expect an undivided and probably unanimous election.’2 He was returned at every election from 1780 to 1812.

Author: J. A. Cannon


  • 1. Edinburgh Advertiser, 29 Apr.-3 May 1768.
  • 2. 6 Apr. 1780, Kilkerran mss.