War veteran from Cheltenham welcomes Falklands referendum result
THE landslide victory to keep the Falkland Islands British has been welcomed by a veteran who defended them 31 years ago.
Major David Thorp, from Leckhampton, defended the islands from Argentine invasion in 1982.
The 73-year-old said the result from the referendum was a "foregone conclusion", with only three of 1,517 at the polls voting against.
The referendum asked residents whether or not they wished the Falkland Islands to retain their current political status as an Overseas Territory of the United Kingdom.
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The Argentine government wants to reclaim the land.
Major Thorp, a former code-breaker who worked closely with GCHQ in Cheltenham during the Falklands conflict, said he believed the theme of island independence should be explored.
He said: "I was at the 30th anniversary of the conflict and, speaking with those living there, it was clear then that the people on the Falkland Islands were absolutely adamant it should stay part and parcel of Britain.
"For me, it was a foregone conclusion that the referendum would go the way that it did, however, what's more engaging is, assuming they keep the status quo, what will now happen to the islands in the future.
"There's a considerable amount of regret that the referendum did not include more than one question. The Falklands people should have been asked their feelings towards independence and what that would do for their country.
"If we are led to believe that the exploration for oil will bring extra revenue to the islands by 2017, there should be a question of independence."
He said he was not as optimistic as the Falklanders themselves and would query the need for the island to go it alone.
"The best thing for them, I think, is for a change in Argentine government for one that is a little bit more tolerant – to allow the islands to import cheaper materials from the mainland rather than 8,000 miles away in Britain," he said. "That will be important for their survival."
In total, there was a turnout of more than 90 per cent from 1,672 British citizens eligible to vote on the island.
Nigel Haywood, governor of the Falkland Islands, said: "It is a major principle of the United Nations that a people have their right to self-determination, and you don't get a much clearer expression of the people's self-determination than such a large turnout and such a large 'yes' vote."