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Appointment of the Chair of the Board of VisitScotland

Published: 7 Mar 2016 11:00

Tourism Minister Fergus Ewing today announced the appointment of John Thurso as the new Chair of the Board of VisitScotland.

Mr Ewing said:

"I am delighted to welcome John Thurso as the new Chair of VisitScotland and wish him well in his new post. Scottish tourism goes from strength to strength and I'm sure VisitScotland will benefit hugely from John's experience and expertise in the industry to grow and develop Scotland's visitor economy."

John Thurso said of his appointment:

"Scotland is an iconic national brand with a world class tourist offering and VisitScotland does a great job promoting both. I look forward to joining the team where I hope the skills I have learnt in my hospitality career combined with my career in public service will make a useful contribution."

John Thurso

Trained by The Savoy Company, John Thurso became Europe's youngest 5 star hotel manager when appointed Managing Director of the Savoy Group's Lancaster Hotel in Paris at 27. After five successful years in Paris he was then founder General Manager for Blakeney Hotels of Cliveden, which became the UK's highest rated hotel under his leadership. From there he was appointed Chief Executive of Granfel Holdings – a small company with three hotels and the prestigious East Sussex National Golf Course owned by the Kuwaiti investment office which was in financial difficulties and which he turned from loss to profit. From 1995 to 2001, he was CEO of Fitness & Leisure Holdings whose main asset was Champneys Health Spa where he was the subject of the BBC documentary "Trouble at the Top – Shape up with Lord Thurso"

John has served as a non-executive on a number of public company boards including The Savoy PLC, Millenium and Copthorne PLC – where he was Deputy Chair and Walker Greenbank PLC which he chaired. He is also Chairman of his family company in Caithness and for many years owned The Ulbster Arms in Halkirk. In the past he has also Chaired a port (Scrabster) and sat on a number of charitable boards and was Grand Master of the Keepers of the Quaich of which he remains a patron. Currently he is Chair of the International Wine & Spirit Competition, a trustee of the Castle of Mey Trust and a board member of IPSA.

Having inherited his title on the death of his father in 1995, he sat in the House of Lords until 1999 and from 2001 to 2015 was MP for Caithness, Sutherland & Easter Ross. He served on the Treasury Select Committee and was a member of the Parliamentary Banking Standards Commission as well as being a Commissioner of the House of Commons and Chair of the House Finance Committee. He was awarded a "Catey" for services to Tourism 2003, was made an honourary DBA by Oxford Brookes in 2004 and is a Master Innholder and a Fellow of The Institute of Hospitality. He is President of the Tourism Society. In 2014 he was made a Privy Councillor by The Queen.

The appointment is for three years from 1 April 2016 to 31 March 2019.

The appointment is part-time and attracts a remuneration of £400 per day for a time commitment of seven days per month.

This appointment is regulated by the Commissioner for Ethical Standards in Public Life in Scotland.

Other Ministerial Appointments
John Thurso is a Board Member of the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA) which has the remit and powers to introduce independent regulation of MPs' business costs, expenses, pay and pensions.

Political Declaration
All appointments are made on merit and political activity plays no part in the selection process. However, in accordance with the original Nolan recommendations, there is a requirement for appointees' political activity within the last five years (if there is any to be declared) to be made public.

John Thurso – Liberal Democrat

  • Elected Member of the House of Commons in 2001, 2005, and 2010 for Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross.
  • Member of the House of Lords 1995-99.

Notes to editors

VisitScotland is the lead Scottish Government Non-Departmental Public Body responsible for growing and developing Scotland's visitor economy and for advising Ministers on policy. It has wide statutory powers to promote tourism and has a budget of around £50 million per annum. It is funded in part by the Scottish Government and the Minister for Business, Energy and Tourism makes appointments to the Board which currently has nine members including the Chair.