John Thurso

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Energy Secretary Ed Davey and John Thurso MP on a visit to Dounreay nuclear site in October 2012.Photo:DECC

John Thurso was elected MP for Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross at the general election in June 2001.

In the 2015 general election Thurso lost his seat to Paul Monaghan of the Scottish National Party. [1]


Thurso was a member of the Liberal Democrats shadow cabinet from October 2001 until March 2006, serving as shadow secretary of state for Scotland from October 2001 until March 2006 and took on the additional role of Shadow Secretary of State for Transport from October 2003 until May 2005. In the last UK Parliament to April 2010, he was Shadow Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform.

Thurso was the Liberal Democrat member of the House of Commons Treasury Select Committee, chair of the Finance and Services Committee, a member of the Audit Committee and the House of Commons Commission.[2]


Thurso gives the following information on his own website:

Born 10th September 1953, John was educated in Thurso and at Eton following which he joined the Savoy Group as a management trainee in 1972. He has had a distinguished career in the hospitality industry, managing the Lancaster in Paris (81-85) and founding Cliveden (85-92) before becoming CEO of Granfel Holdings, owners of East Sussex National Golf Course from 1992 to 1995. From 1995 until his election to Parliament he was CEO of the Champneys group and featured in the TV documentary “Trouble at the top- shape up with Lord Thurso”.
John retains his links with the industry through his Presidency of the Tourism Society and the Academy of Food and Wine Service. He is a Fellow of the HCIMA and was their Patron for 6 years, until June 2003.
Coming from an old Liberal family (his grandfather was party leader 1935-1945), John has always had a keen interest in politics. Following his father’s death in 1995 he took his seat in the House of Lords where he was spokesman on Tourism and later Food. He was a Highland list candidate in 1999. John spoke many times in the House of Lords in favour of Lords reform and following the 1999 Act, chose not to try and stay. He is the first and only hereditary peer to have been elected to the Commons having previously sat in the Lords.
John and his wife Marion have been married for 26 years and have a daughter and 2 sons. The family live in Thurso.[2]

Aristocracy of Whisky

[Lord] Thurso is also one of 12 Patrons of the Quaich which he considers a huge honour. “We are all dedicated to whisky, to its purity and variety not only as a commodity but also as Scotland’s greatest export,” he orates. “We are like a constitutional aristocracy. We have no power but considerable influence. It is a great honour to be a Keeper of the Quaich but particularly to be a Patron.” Grand masters of the past have included the Duke of Argyll and Lord Macfarlane of Bearsden.[3]

Thurso has previously been a member of the Administration Committee and the Speaker's Advisory Committee on Works of Art, he was a member of the Culture, Media and Sport select committee from 2001 until May 2005.'

Pro-nuclear views

In May 2013 John Thurso and two local councillors expressed the view that most people living in Caithness would accept another nuclear power station in the far north.

Thurso believes "very strongly" that the UK needs a mix of technologies to meet its energy demands.

"There is not one technology that is the answer to everything but it would be inconceivable in the medium term not to have a new generation of nuclear power," said the Lib Dem MP.

Thurso cautioned however that a new nuclear power station would not replace the 2000 jobs being lost at the Dounreay site in Caithness.[4]


Register of Interests

1. Remunerated directorships

Chairman of: International Wine and Spirit Competition Ltd; organisers annual wine and spirit competition. Ulbster Holdings Ltd.; manages family estates in Scotland. Thurso Fisheries Ltd; manages family estates in Scotland. Director of three wholly owned subsidiaries of Ulbster Holdings Ltd:

Director of Millennium and Copthorne Hotels PLC; international hotel company.

8. Land and Property

Estate in Caithness.

9. Registrable shareholdings

(a) Walker Greenbank PLC (2% of share capital is owned by Ulbster Holdings Ltd. which I own 100%). (a) Ulbster Holdings Ltd (which owns 100% of Lochdhu Hotels Ltd., Ulbster Estates (Sporting) Ltd and Sinclair Family Trust Ltd.) (a) Thurso Fisheries Ltd.[7]

Contact, Resources and Notes




  1. Election 2015: Who are the Scottish Lib Dem losers? BBC News, 8 May 2015, accessed 20 May 2015
  2. 2.0 2.1 John Thurso About John Thurso, acc July 2012
  3. Whisky Magazine Whisky Issue 9
  4. Public 'would accept new nuclear power station', John O'Groat Journal and Caithness Courier, 17 May 2013
  5. REGISTER OF ALL-PARTY GROUPS, as at June 2013
  6. New Zealand United Distillers Association Press release 21st October 2008 Scotch honour for Distilled Spirits Association chief accessed 14th November 2008
  7. They Work for Thurso Register of interests