Falklands eye oil wealth and autonomy

HUGH O'SHAUGHNESSY

Port Stanley, Falklands

The Falkland Islands want "secure independence" from Britain, according to a document just published here by the eight elected members of the islands' Legislative Council.

In a document entitled The Future for the Falkland Islands, the councillors say that independence for the 2,200 inhabitants will be "a very gradual process". But the formal publication for the first time of their views, often expressed in private, is a major development for the islands - especially on the eve of talks this week in Buenos Aires on oil and fishery matters.

Phylis Rendall, director of education and a leading public figure, said: "We don't want to remain totally and utterly dependent on Britain long- term and it's a very bold step for 2,200 people. But it may take decades."

The councillors are keen to appear forward-looking as the population moves towards what could be immense oil wealth. The islands' government came into relative prosperity at the end of the 1980s when it started to sell licences to fish its waters; these are expected to bring in nearly pounds 17m this year, half the government's income. But that figure is likely to be dwarfed as the administration seeks bids from oil companies to exploit potentially huge energy resources in the surrounding waters.

Even one small oilfield could make each inhabitant wealthier than the average Briton. The councillors want a political regime able to cope with any new situation.

Excitement about possible oil money was palpable as the Legislative Council met last Friday. Talks centred on oil and the fear of "Third World sleaze" creeping in if vast new income were to be concentrated into the hands of local entrepreneurs. But Andrew Gurr, the chief executive, said: "If that huge income does not create very substantial advantages for every man, woman and child on the islands, then government will have failed the people."

Islanders are considering the changes oil money could bring to their way of life. Some say things will be go downhill as their traditional hardy way of life is doomed.

The more optimistic concentrate on the benefits oil money could bring. They point to the fact that in the years since the rout of the Argentine invaders in 1982, a large British military presence isolated in a garrison an hour's drive from Port Stanley has done no great social damage and a lot of good. They argue that a similar situation could obtain with any influx of oilmen.

The island leaders have studied the experience of Shetland, where social and geographic conditions are similar, and they have been encouraged by how the Shetlanders have maintained their own personality amid oil wealth.

The atmosphere in the Falklands has changed a great deal since the 1970s, when a report by the late Lord Shackleton painted a picture of submissive people, most of them in thrall to absentee landlords and seeking solace in alcohol.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This full service social media ...

Recruitment Genius: Data Analyst - Online Marketing

£24000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are 'Changemakers in retail'...

Austen Lloyd: Senior Residential Conveyancer

Very Competitive: Austen Lloyd: Senior Conveyancer - South West We are see...

Austen Lloyd: Residential / Commercial Property Solicitor

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: DORSET MARKET TOWN - SENIOR PROPERTY SOLICITOR...

Day In a Page

Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there