Christmas gives us a chance to reflect over the past year and 2014 has been a year of great progress for the Falkland Islands. From Stanley to Fox Bay, the Falkland’s economy went from strength to strength. More tourists than ever flocked to your islands, engineers in the South Atlantic – your waters – explored your natural resources fisherman caught record hauls of squid and yes, your Commonwealth Games team – the biggest in history – did you proud in Glasgow.
This was the year that followed that decisive referendum – when the islanders said with one voice “we are British”. We on the mainland remain as passionate about you and about that relationship as you do. Ours is a shared history.
One hundred years ago, the Allies defended their base in Stanley from German aggression and this month we honour the sacrifice that so many made. And 3 decades ago, UK forces stood with the islanders as they faced a direct and grave threat to their sovereignty and it is absolutely right that we will be recognising this next year, when your islands will collectively receive the South Atlantic Medal and that you’ll be unveiling a bronze statue to honour someone who played such an important role in that liberation – Baroness Thatcher.
Our relationship is also based on a common future and 2015 will be a year when the British government, again, steadfastly defends the freedom she helped you secure. We will begin the fourth phase of de-mining – another step towards healing the scars of that conflict. And we will back you every step of the way as you strive for growth, prosperity and employment for all where you are free to exploit your natural resources and develop your industries without hindrance from other nations.
Next year the BBC’s Island Parish series returns to our screens – this time, focusing on the Falkland Islands. I am delighted that so many more people will learn about the incredible wildlife, scenery, history and, of course, community spirit of your islands.
We may be 8,000 miles apart, you may be waking up on Christmas morning as we prepare our Christmas lunches, but our bond remains as strong as ever and Samantha and I wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.