John Thurso

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The Viscount Thurso
Official portrait of Viscount Thurso crop 2.jpg
Thurso in 2018
Chair of the Finance and Services Committee
In office
6 May 2010 – 8 May 2015
Preceded byStuart Bell
Succeeded byNick Brown
Liberal Democrat Business, Innovation, and Skills Spokesperson
In office
8 October 2008 – 12 May 2010
LeaderNick Clegg
Preceded bySarah Teather
Succeeded byVince Cable (2015)
Liberal Democrat Transport Spokesperson
In office
LeaderCharles Kennedy
Preceded byTom Brake
Succeeded byDon Foster
Member of the House of Lords
Lord Temporal
Assumed office
19 April 2016
as an elected hereditary peer
Preceded byThe Lord Avebury
In office
31 October 1995 – 11 November 1999
as a hereditary peer
Preceded byRobin Sinclair, 2nd Viscount Thurso
Succeeded bySeat abolished
Member of Parliament
for Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross
In office
7 June 2001 – 30 March 2015
Preceded byRobert Maclennan
Succeeded byPaul Monaghan
Personal details
John Archibald Sinclair

(1953-09-10) 10 September 1953 (age 68)
Thurso, Caithness, Scotland, UK
Political partyLiberal Democrats
Spouse(s)Marion Sage (present Viscountess Thurso)
Children1 daughter, 2 sons
Alma materEton

John Archibald Sinclair, 3rd Viscount Thurso PC (born 10 September 1953), known also as John Thurso, is a Scottish businessman, Liberal Democrat politician and hereditary peer, currently Lord Lieutenant of Caithness.[1]

Thurso is notable for having served in the House of Lords both before and after a period in the House of Commons. He first joined Parliament in the Lords as a hereditary peer between 1995 and 1999. Most hereditary peers were removed from Parliament following the House of Lords Act 1999. Subsequently, he was elected Member of Parliament (MP) for Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross from the 2001 election until he was defeated in the 2015 election by SNP candidate Paul Monaghan. He was the fifth generation of the Sinclair family to represent the Caithness area in the House of Commons. In 2016, he returned to the House of Lords after winning a by-election to fill a vacancy among the remaining Liberal Democrat hereditary peers.

Education, family and non-political career[edit]

John Sinclair was educated in Thurso and at Eton College. Thurso joined the Savoy Group as a management trainee in 1972 and following this worked for many years in the hospitality industry. He was a manager at the Lancaster Hotel in Paris (1981–85) and founding the hotel at Cliveden (1985–92) before becoming CEO of Granfel Holdings, owners of East Sussex National Golf Course from 1992 to 1995. Finally from 1995 until his election to parliament in 2001 he was CEO of the Champneys Group. During his time in this job he featured in the TV documentary Trouble at the Top – Shape up with Lord Thurso.

Lord Thurso comes from a family of Liberal parliamentarians. The former constituency of Caithness and Sutherland had been held by his grandfather, Archibald Sinclair, from 1922 until 1945. Archibald Sinclair was the 1st Viscount Thurso and a Liberal Party leader. Thurso has been married to Marion for 26 years and they have a daughter and two sons. The family live at Thurso, Caithness.

Thurso holds the Presidency of The Tourism Society[2] and the Academy of Food and Wine Service.[3] He is a Fellow of Confederation of Tourism and Hospitality (HCIMA) (FIH) and served as its Patron for six years, until June 2003. He was President of the British International Spa Association,[4] a Trustee of the Clan Sinclair Trust, and Patron of the Bluebell Railway 50th Anniversary Appeal.[citation needed] In that capacity, on 24 April 2009, at the railway's Horsted Keynes station he carried out the ceremonial renaming of the Battle of Britain class locomotive named after his grandfather, Sir Archibald Sinclair, Secretary of State for Air during that battle.[5] On 7 March 2016, it was announced that Lord Thurso would become the chair of VisitScotland.[6] In August 2017, he was appointed as Lord Lieutenant of Caithness.[7]

Political career[edit]

Following his father's death in 1995, he took his seat in the House of Lords as the 3rd Viscount Thurso where he became spokesman on Tourism and later Food Matters. Thurso spoke many times in the House of Lords in favour of Lords reform. His automatic right as a hereditary peer to sit in the House of Lords was abolished in 1999, and he did not attempt to remain in that capacity.[8] At the 2001 general election, he was elected to the House of Commons as the MP for Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross.

He served as Liberal Democrat Shadow Scotland Secretary under Charles Kennedy,[9] but was sacked by Sir Menzies Campbell. He has publicly gone against party policy by declaring his support for nuclear power,[10] and his criticism of 24-hour drinking and wind power.

Lord Thurso was sworn of the Privy Council in 2014.[11] Thurso lost his Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross at the 2015 general election to Paul Monaghan of the Scottish National Party. However, Lord Thurso had a good result in comparison with many Liberal Democrat candidates. Only four Scottish Liberal Democrat candidates were closer to winning their seats, including Alistair Carmichael; who was the only Liberal Democrat candidate to retain his seat at that year's general election.[12]

Following the election, Lord Thurso became a board member of the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority.[13]

In April 2016, Thurso won a by-election to a vacancy in the House of Lords following the death of Lord Avebury.[14] He won the support of all of the three members who were eligible to vote.[14]

In 2017, he was appointed as Lord Lieutenant of Caithness.


Coat of arms of John Thurso
A Viscount's coronet
A Star of six points waved Argent rising from a Cloud Proper
Quarterly: 1st, Azure a Ship at anchor her Oars erect in saltire within the Royal Tressure Or; 2nd and 3rd, Or a Lion rampant Gules; 4th, Azure a Ship under sail Or; over all dividing the quarters a Cross engrailed quarterly Argent and Sable all within a Bordure quartered Or and Gules the Last charged with three Stars of the First
On either side a Red Deer Proper
Above the Crest: Ad Astra Virtus (Virtue knows no bounds); below the Arms: J'Aime Le Meilleur (I love the best)
Sinclair hunting tartan (ancient).

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Profile,; accessed 8 May 2015.
  2. ^, Direct Tourism Services -. "The Tourism Society – People in all the right places".
  3. ^ "Academy of Food and Wine Service – The Academy is the Professional body for Front of House Service Personnel".
  4. ^ "BISA Council and Associates". Archived from the original on 5 January 2009.
  5. ^ Profile; accessed 8 May 2015.
  6. ^ "John Thurso to chair VisitScotland". BBC News. Retrieved 8 March 2016.
  7. ^ "Lord Lieutenant for Caithness: Viscount Thurso". 10 Downing Street. 17 August 2017. Retrieved 21 August 2017.
  8. ^ Parkinson, Justin (22 February 2011). "John Thurso: The hereditary peer who became an MP". BBC News. Retrieved 29 December 2011.
  9. ^ Uncredited (3 November 2001). "Kennedy boosts his frontbench team". The Scotsman. Retrieved 29 December 2011.
  10. ^ Edwards, Rob (5 March 2006). "Nuclear power: splitting the LibDems and Labour". Sunday Herald. Retrieved 29 December 2011.
  11. ^ Lord Thurso was sworn of the Privy Council in 2014,; accessed 8 May 2015.
  12. ^ "UK Polling Report". Retrieved 8 March 2016.
  13. ^ "ISPA Board members".
  14. ^ a b "Former Lib Dem MP John Thurso to return to House of Lords". BBC News. BBC. 19 April 2016. Retrieved 19 April 2016.

External links[edit]

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Member of Parliament for Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross
Succeeded by
Honorary titles
Preceded by
Lord Lieutenant of Caithness
Peerage of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Viscount Thurso
Member of the House of Lords
Heir apparent:
Hon. James Sinclair
Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Elected hereditary peer to the House of Lords
under of the House of Lords Act 1999