Adopting a Greek Cat to Scotland

You are on holiday soaking up the sun somewhere in the Mediterranean and you fall in love with that street cat or kitten you have been feeding. Can you rescue it from certain starvation once the tourist season ends? Can you take it home with you? Is that even possible? Well the answer is yes, quite easily to most European countries, but unfortunately with much more difficulty if you happen to live in one of the four countries that currently make up the UK.

A European pet passport should allow you to take your pet anywhere in Europe. To obtain a European pet passport the first step is to have the cat micro chipped. Then the cat must be vaccinated against rabies and have a vet check 24 hours before travel. Many airlines will allow you to fly home with your cat in the cabin with you for a relatively small additional charge (e.g. 50 euros on Aegean). The cat plus carry basket has to weigh under 8kg. So long as the cat’s passport is in order you should not experience any problems with security leaving the country of origin or with passport control on arrival at your destination.

Unfortunately for me and our adoptee, Naomi, getting home to Scotland was not so straightforward. Naomi was born to a feral mother in a car park in a village on the Greek Island of Syros. She was trapped at the age of six months by Syros Cats, a charitable organisation that helps the stray cats of Syros, as part of a regular TNR (trap, neuter, return) programme. She was not returned as she needed treated with antibiotics. When my partner and I arrived as volunteers in Spring 2017 one of our jobs was to try and tempt her into the house in order to administer said antibiotics. Naomi quickly realised that a night indoors enjoying the comfort of our duvet was an acceptable pay off. Needless to say, we bonded. On our return in Autumn 2017 Naomi quickly re established our nighttime routine. In the daytime she made herself scarce, not being a cat that enjoys colony life. We decided we had to try and take her home with us.

We had flights booked from Syros to Athens and from Athens to Edinburgh. Since it is not possible to fly a pet from Athens in to Edinburgh (even in the hold) we changed mine (at considerable expense) from Athens to Amsterdam. We paid 20 Euros to fly Naomi with us in the cabin from Syros to Athens.  When we had to walk across the tarmac she was pretty terrified by the noise of the propellors, but managed the flight well. We had an overnight in a hotel in Athens and then set off early the next morning. Security in Athens was a challenge. Security staff wanted us to take Naomi out of her cat carrier in the middle of the security hall so that they could put the carrier through the security machine. We stood our ground and eventually got taken to a small enclosed cabin, It would have been much safer and less stressful if Naomi had been wearing a cat harness but unfortunately we had not been able to get one on her despite numerous attempts. The one we have bought for her since we got her home  has velcro rather than buckle fastenings and is a much better design than anything we could buy in Syros. Indeed, she seems to feel secure when she’s wearing it.

After much deliberation the cat carrier we chose for Naomi was a soft design with a shoulder strap. She seemed to find it comforting that I could hold her against me and it left my hands free to manage passports and tickets etc. It was large enough for her to be able to stand up and turn around in it yet small enough for her to feel very secure. We covered it with a blanket when in transit. The flight from Athens to Amsterdam was uneventful. I had Naomi in her carrier at my feet for most of the way, only picking her up when she started to cry as we came in to land. I found an accessible toilet this side of customs and was able to let her out in order to use her litter tray, which she obligingly did. She had a drink but did not want to eat. Looking up I saw the ceiling was not secure, I could see the ventilation shafts, so I hurriedly put her back in her carrier. (photo)

Checking with a customs official as to which lane I should go through, I was delighted to be told that as Naomi had a European passport I was welcome in the Netherlands and did not need to declare her. I had a few hours to kill before heading by train and bus to Hoek van Holland for the overnight ferry. I found a quiet seating area in the Sheraton Hotel where nobody bothered us.

At the ferry terminal in Hoek van Holland there is a member of staff responsible for checking each animal’s papers are in order to enter UK. I just about cried tears of relief when we got the green card – approval for her to enter. (photo) This is the only ferry you can take from the continent of Europe in to the UK with a pet if you are not travelling in a car. Unfortunately it goes to Harwich, a port in South East England. Tough luck if you are trying to get to Scotland! (Had we had a car we could have gone from Amsterdam to Newcastle with Naomi left in the car during the journey.)

I had been dreading having to leave Naomi overnight in a kennel on the ferry. As it turned out my fears were unfounded. There are two sound proofed kennels. Although it was a very busy time of year, the staff did their best to separate dogs and cats. Naomi ended up in the kennel with other cats and two golden retrievers, the least likely dogs to bark! I was able to regularly check on the CCTV channel on the television in my cabin and Naomi’s kennel was silent all night.

Early next morning my wonderful cousin, Jill Davidson, met us at Harwich. Jill had driven from her home in Suffolk for nearly two hours through horrendous weather conditions and then drove us for another hour and a half to my mother’s in Hertfordshire. The ferry is supposed to connect to a train to London but the trains were cancelled the morning we arrived. We spent a couple of days recovering at my mother’s before taking the train from London to Edinburgh. At Edinburgh we were met by my partner and driven an hour to our home in Stirling.

I am happy to report that Naomi has settled well and seems to be thoroughly enjoying her new life in Scotland. As a fluffy black cat even some days here have been too warm for her so goodness knows how she coped in the summer in Syros! We have no regrets at all about having adopted her, despite the journey and costs involved.




Smith Commission Submission

This is the submission I made to the Smith Commission. I could have gone on but submissions were restricted to 5,000 characters. Probably just as well! With thanks to the SNP, Scottish Greens and Women for Independence for inspiration. Not holding out much hope for this Commission but it would have felt bad not to have at least tried!

Principle Number 1

Every proposal is to be assessed against the criterion that it is the best possible deal for Scotland.

Principle Number 2

That the package, when considered as a whole, delivers on the promises made at the last minute in the referendum campaign– i.e. maximum self–government within the Union. Variously promised by the No side as ‘devo–max’, ‘home rule’ or ‘federalism’.

Principle Number 3

That the package is assessed against the criteria of coherence, effectiveness and transparency. To tackle issues such as inequality, for example, the Scottish Parliament requires a coherent and effective set of powers covering welfare, taxation, employment and equality.

Principle Number 4

The Commission’s work must be the starting point, not the end point of this debate. Clear opportunities for meaningful public involvement must follow, with clarity over the means of achieving a democratic mandate for constitutional reform.

My proposals are:

Scottish Broadcaster

A pre condition for a functioning democracy is an independent media. The BBC’s coverage of the independence referendum demonstrated it is not independent from the British state.

I propose that the £300 million per year licence fee raised by the BBC from Scots is allocated to set up an independent Scottish broadcaster, owned by the people of Scotland, overseen by the Scottish Parliament and making programmes from a Scottish perspective. This would benefit not only our democracy but also the creative sector in Scotland and prevent the current London drain of so much of our home grown talent.

Written constitution

A clear commitment was given by the three parties in Better Together to establish the permanence of the Scottish Parliament, this should be done by means of a written constitution. The constitution should contain the requirement for Parliamentary approval from all national parliaments and assemblies , before the Westminster Government commits to military action.

Tackling inequality

I personally find living in one of the most unequal countries in the developed world with 1 in 4 of our children in poverty (1 in 3 in Glasgow) utterly shameful. Yet this is a political choice made by successive Westminster governments from 1979 onwards (with a well meaning but ultimately failed attempt by Gordon Brown to use tax credits to tackle this). We must have the powers in Scotland to reverse this, despite the declared intentions of all the Unionist political parties to continue with neoliberal policies that will increase inequality. My proposals below, if delivered as a package, would give us the necessary powers to, over time, reverse the damage done to date and to mitigate against the further damage planned.


The Barnett formula should only be relinquished if control over all taxes raised in Scotland is devolved to the Scottish parliament. The proposal to devolve only income tax is not in Scotland’s interest, as evidenced by the featured image. Indeed, when this table is studied, it is difficult to escape the conclusion that this is a proposal made for cynical party political gain and has nothing to do with the interests of the people of Scotland.

Scottish Taxation Receipts

Human Rights

If the HRA repeal proposed by the current Westminster Government was to take place there would need to be a clear power for the Scottish human rights regime to be applied to UK bodies and agencies operating in Scotland.

Economic powers

Scotland should have new powers to create a jobs-rich, more equal and more locally-based economy. It is vital that the Scottish Parliament does not accept powers over taxation that only give it the responsibility to deliver the UK Government’s economic policy. Rather it should have powers to set an economic and industrial policy designed for Scotland and its regions.


Clearly once any significant aspects of personal taxation are devolved, the interface between the tax and benefit systems will be affected, and a coherent approach to social justice and the fair distribution of wealth cannot be achieved if there is fragmentation between these systems. I would therefore advocate an approach which seeks clear justification for any aspect of the social security system remaining reserved; this may for example be the case in relation to pensions, but little else.

Land reform

While much of the land reform agenda is devolved already, problem of competence arose in relation to efforts to use the land registration system to address the issue of land registered in tax havens. I would argue that it is important for the Scottish Parliament to be able to take steps to tackle the abuse of land ownership for the purpose of tax avoidance.

I support the devolution of the Crown Estate and powers of the Commissioners and would seek to strike a balance between local control of assets and investment decisions, and the need for a coherent approach to issues such as renewable energy and the marine environment.

In the Aftermath of the Referendum

Over a week has passed since the referendum. Like many Scots (even some of the English born ones) I have wept, raged and tried in vain to make sense of why 55% of Scots could have chosen continued rule by Westminster rather than grasping the opportunity to build their own country. The enormity of what we have lost cannot and must not be forgotten – on 18th September 2014 we held in our hands the opportunity to rid these islands forever of nuclear weapons of mass destruction, to halt the welfare cuts on the most vulnerable members of our society and to take control of our own resources to build an economically prosperous, socially just and greener country. Instead a week later we find ourselves complicit in another illegal war, whilst at home the British Unionist parties are backtracking faster then even the Yes side could have imagined on the last minute ‘vow’ of extra powers for the Scottish Parliament. From 19th September it was business as usual for the British state – austerity at home and aggression abroad.

Blair McDougall, No campaign leader, has offered a welcome insight into the 55%.

For 40%, their sense of ‘Britishness’ meant they would vote for the Union without even considering the arguments. If you are one of these No voters then I know the perfect place to go to connect further with your ‘inner Britishness’, it’s called ‘England’. In 2014 you may be surprised to find that it is not the place you thought it was

The other 15% were won over by scaremongering, aided and abetted by the London based newspapers and the BBC (clue is in the name). Only days later the lies are being admitted in a triumphalism that screams, “Ha, Ha, a good many of you were just as stupid as we thought all along”. So if you are one of those 15% and are feeling duped, then turn your anger into something positive and join the 45plus movement.

So what can the 45plus movement offer? The harsh reality is very little in comparison with what we held in our hands on 18th September. It is early days and we all need time to recover and regroup. As individuals, this is as far as myself and my partner have got with a plan for moving forward:

  • Stop paying our TV licence and reallocate the £145 per annum saved to supporting independent Scottish broadcasting (still to emerge but various options in development).   A prerequisite for a functioning democracy is an independent media. The referendum made clear that our current mainstream media (excepting Sunday Herald and a couple of local papers) is nothing more than the organ of the British state.
  • Purchase the Sunday Herald every week
  • Boycott all companies that complied with Westminster’s request to scaremonger by threatening to leave Scotland or put their prices up in the event of a Yes vote. You can print off the list and distribute it to friends here We are sending letters to each CEO explaining why we are boycotting them and will be happy to provide you with a template for doing the same.
  • Purchase a T-shirt Essential wear for the inevitable marches that will follow – against Trident renewal, against welfare cuts, against ‘punching above our weight’ and bombing the shit out of yet more ‘brown’ people, against fracking, to save the NHS etc.
  • Research thoroughly whether to join one of the Yes supporting political parties:



or whether to seek to influence as a member of the 45plus movement. At the moment the most likely outcome in our household is an amicable SNP/Green Scotland Alliance. Hopefully Scotland Alliance candidates will stand for the 2015 Westminster elections and finish off the British Labour party in Scotland.

  • Review whether we wish to continue to live in Bridge of Allan. Miriam Brett has written movingly about the trauma of being at the Stirling count, ‘Watching areas like the Raploch voting Yes, only to see the likes of Dunblane and Bridge of Allan overwhelmingly say No was like watching the wealthy ignoring the poor’s cries for change’.
  • Try to live long enough to see independence for Scotland. This week I had the pleasure of meeting Ellen Moxley. Ellen and two other women disarmed a Trident submarine. At the subsequent trial the defence argued that the actions taken by the “Trident Three” were both justified and legal, as the weapons system that was damaged was prohibited under international law. The judge acquitted them, acknowledging that they had a right to  “disarm” the base. Ellen has a terminal illness and knows she will not now live to see independence and the removal of nuclear weapons of mass destruction from these islands, something we could have achieved by simply putting a cross in a box. Many of you will know others who have devoted their lives to trying to bring about a more decent, fairer country. For every one of them who will not live to see this, we must battle on. In a week where instead of waking up to independence we instead find ourselves involuntary members of a nation that once again has illegally declared war, I leave you with Ellen’s words:

“I believe passionately in the power of nonviolence.  In times of great despair, it offers a way of courage, great companionship, immense potential for change, and above all, hope.”