SO the Scottish Government won’t be cutting the Air Passenger Tax this year.

And the First Minister has declared a “climate emergency”. Both of these, no doubt, are in response to this week’s official

UK committee report on climate change. Among a number of other privations, it states simply: we have to fly a lot less.

There are no super-efficient technical fixes on the horizon. Biofuels for your airplane would demand huge agricultural land masses, areas that should be being reforested anyway. Electric planes? The battery technology is so poor and inefficient at the moment, you’d barely get the crate off the ground.

So for the forseeable future, planes will be the unmitigated cads of carbon pollution. Air travel produces 2% of the planet’s carbon dioxide emissions – but it produces 285 grams per passenger kilometre, with road transportation following at 158, and rail travel at 14 grams. And from current trends, air traffic is expected to double in the next 10 to 20 years.

Flying has an eco-target on its back. Yet I think many of my eco-comrades underestimate how integral to many people’s modern identity flying is (or even the possibility of doing so). We need to expose the desires and longings that it articulates, and try to connect them to a new home.

Some of them think all this can be waved away as a class issue. The Scottish Greens report, Air Departure Tax: who benefits?, criticised the proposed ScotGov cuts, suggesting an alternative “Frequent Flyer Levy”.

This rests on stats like “70% of flights are taken by 15% of all people … And some 5% report flying at least four times per month. These “hypermobile” individuals are predominantly in the richest 10% of Scottish households, and stand to gain over 40 times as much from the tax cut as regular travellers. Commuting by plane is overwhelmingly the preserve of the wealthiest travellers.”

I wouldn’t doubt these figures. Nor do I deny that an escalating levy on more frequent fliers could be properly redistributive. But does that really capture the full and subtle sociology here? What about the shifts – cultural and attitudinal – that cheap flying has enabled in recent years?

I’m old enough to remember when flying was an exceptional, indeed elite event. In my early days of pop-music success, it was hilarious to tumble into the 7am British Midland shuttle, noisily scandalising the florid rows of branch managers arrayed before us.

Buy me a drink and I’ll also tell you about our Concorde trip to New York, to conduct that oh-so-vital “remix”. About as necessary as gold leaf on your choc ice, but a ridiculously memorable experience: cramped luxury, terrifying take-off speed, and celebrity rubbernecking.

But I doubt it was that much more memorable than when our LoganAir crate swooped over the lambent beaches on Barra, in our 1990s holidays, touching down on long sands lapped by not-that-distant waves.

That’s what shoulder-pad success got you – the Icarus dream realised, at any level you wanted. But that’s what millions of individuals, couples and families have had access to, in the cheap-flights era.

Particularly across the European flight zone, ambitious souls of all sizes and shapes – from artistic to political, from recreational to romantic, never mind just “the business class” – have found themselves stepping off a plane, in some promising part of the continent. And wondering what will happen to them next.

I’m in the midst of a documentary project, a labour of love about a great Scottish intellectual, made with complete creative freedom. But it simply couldn’t be enabled without budget flights (and for that matter, Airbnb bargains) that help us skip efficiently, here and there, across Europe. We’re hardly “the wealthiest travellers” (unless that also means “busking freelancers”).

This project, and quite a few others I’m involved in – one concerning links between progressive forces in Denmark and the UK – simply couldn’t happen, wouldn’t even be conceivable, without the often eye-popping cheapness of a Ryanair or EasyJet flight.

I can a hear a thunderous “tough!” coming from climate activists. We are facing a drastic 10-year deadline, at the end of which we must have net-zero carbon targets in place across our social and economic systems. So one’s pleasant and subtle projects may have to be dropped back into their desktop folders.

In the UK – which is also, per capita, the country which flies most in the world – the airline industry has been getting away with climate murder. The young climate icon Greta Thunberg arraigned the UK last week for “very creative carbon accounting”.

While they claim they have reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 40% since 1990, British governments have not included emissions from global flights (or shipping).

The UN’s regulatory system for airlines – named Corsia, and designed to compel companies to “carbon offset”, or spend money on carbon-reducing projects like reforesting – is generally regarded as weak. Its monitoring powers are opaque; its executive is too stuffed with industry and national interests.

Would a proper accounting of the “externalities” of flying mean, as the Green MP Caroline Lucas argues, that “our expectation of cheap flights can’t go on much longer?” Sounds like it.

So, swallowing hard on one’s climate medicine, what is to be done? To some extent, the solutions to the problem I’m raising – that is, how can we maintain the spirit and creativity of cross-border projects, at all levels, for citizens as well as business people? – are already being hacked into place.

My colleagues and I have taken part in videoconferences – most often using the video platform Zoom – which can involve scores, sometimes hundreds of people online. We can convene, breakout and deliberate, if cleverly managed.

The carbon footprint isn’t evaporated – all these digital services have their own energy demands.

But it’s a tiny percentage of the tens, sometimes hundreds of thousands of miles that would otherwise have been travelled.

A fine solution for the creative classes. What of the working family, dreaming of their sun-drenched respite from the daily grind? What resentments will be raised in already disgruntled hearts, when lofty environmental experts price escapism out of the hands of the many?

Not easy to answer. Here’s a starry-eyed proposal. I wonder whether the dream of finding yourself stepping off the plane, ready to experience a different zone of the human condition, can somehow be socialised or collectivised.

Could we set up, in the early days of a better nation, a “world citizen lottery”? Using sortition or random-selection, we would all get our chance to have that “transformational” trip across the world – but the flight opportunities would be spread out across an adult life, and calculated to stay within our carbon budget.

How many flights? An article in The Conversation calculates that, in the next 30 years, each of the world’s 7 billion inhabitants can spend three tonnes of carbon per year. (That’s if we stay below 800 billion tonnes in total, beyond which we tip the climate into catastrophe). Three tonnes equals two transatlantic round trips (economy class). There’s your golden tickets, and there’s how much they really cost.

“Come fly with me, let’s fly, let’s fly away”, my old dad used to croon, mid-1960s, to his child-in-arms. Blithe, carefree modernity, sailing away on silver wings. We are counting the costs of all that heedless, exponential growth now.

But the desire to make giant steps across the Earth shouldn’t just be the preserve of the plutocrats, using their wealth to sail above petty regulations and quotas. To save the world, we – in the demos – should feel in and of the world.

Aviation, however rationed and apportioned, should have its place in that old, enduring dream.