IT was, of course, a vain hope to expect many plaudits from progressive readers when I declared in this column a month ago that I was now a climate convert, after finding my favourite Swiss glacier in the middle of a meltdown.

On the contrary, a chorus of critics said I had not converted nearly far enough. “Fascism is just under the surface of this author!” maintained Michael Maciocia. “What an absolute clown!” ranted Randle McMurphy. “Fry Fried!” fulminated J Williamson.

Ever the humble seeker after truth, I perked up from such obloquy when I saw Nicola Sturgeon’s speech at the SNP Spring Conference in Edinburgh. Describing how impressed she had been by schoolkids skiving off on a Friday to demonstrate over climate change, she said: “Today, as First Minister of Scotland, I am declaring that there is a climate emergency. And Scotland will live up to our responsibility to tackle it.”

The First Minister remained perhaps a little reticent over the exact nature of this emergency, or of what she actually meant to do about it. But since then we have heard more from Roseanna Cunningham, the Cabinet Secretary for the Environment, who assured us a strategy was already gearing up. She said: “An emergency needs a systematic response that is appropriate to the scale of the challenge, not a knee-jerk, piecemeal reaction. All Cabinet Secretaries are looking across the full range of policy areas to identify areas where we can go further, faster.”

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Yet there is one measure which admits of not the slightest delay. The Scottish Government had been mulling over a change to the amount of tax paid by passengers flying from our airports ever since it sought and acquired the necessary power in the Scotland Act 2016.

This item, by any standards obscure, was all the same part of the new devolution settlement embodied in the legislation. Alex Salmond, who inspired it, had long been vexed at how hard Scotland was to reach by air. With his background in finance, he knew a mere logistical detail could all the same be a real turn-off for any foreign investor intending to do business here. So he wanted the tax to be cut.

The National: 'Alex Salmond, who inspired the policy, had long been vexed at how hard Scotland was to reach by air''Alex Salmond, who inspired the policy, had long been vexed at how hard Scotland was to reach by air'

I think Alex was right. Time was, not so long ago, when Scotland could barely be reached by air at all except through transfer in London. I lived in Brussels around 1980, and there were then no direct flights home. Nowadays you can fly back and forth from Edinburgh or Glasgow to two or three dozen foreign airports, from Aberdeen to another 20, even from Inverness to a handful of them. Despite the tax, Scotland’s air traffic has greatly increased. From an economic point of view, this can only be a good thing. Much of the movement may be touristic, but the routes are always there if businessmen need them.

Do we really think that in future, in order to clinch some Scottish deal, these businessmen are instead going to drive the 400 miles from London or, heaven help them, take the train? Or are we to go cap in hand to woo them down there?

Yet that is the logic of the Scottish Government’s position, after its statement that the halving of the tax from 12% to 6%, promised in the election manifesto of 2016, would not now take place, despite lengthy consultations and specious assurances to the travel industry.

In these three years the number of airlines serving Scotland has shrunk because of recession. Evidently the traffic is not intended to swell again.

To the Scottish Government, the effect on climate change is more important. It makes no difference that this effect, surely minor, looks also to be a long way down the line (in precise terms, the difference between carbon emissions following on from changes in demand for air travel as determined by differential tax rates).

The risk to economic activity, though greater and more immediate, will all the same be ignored. If there is less of the growth we urgently need, not least to persuade people to vote Yes in a new referendum, it’s just too bad. No “knee-jerk, piecemeal” policy for Scotland? This is as fine an example of just that as you are likely to find.

If I can decode the official attitude emerging from the climate emergency as now declared, it may be something like this. All policies, however vital they have been deemed up to now, will in future be subject to the test of whether they could add to climate change, in however small and notional a way.

What is more, the SNP habitually regard government as omnipotent, even in cases (education, health service) where it clearly is not.

On the matter of the climate, it seems unlikely mere reality will ever cloud the vision of our ministers’ starry eyes. So they press ahead regardless, to signal their own virtue, obviously, but for anything else? In order to explore the outer cutting edges of political correctness, where I myself would fear to tread, I often look for guidance to my fellow columnist Lesley Riddoch.

In a recent piece she said this: “By 2050 … the annual summer flight to the sun may be a thing of the past. In agriculture a 90% cut in emissions means we must cut current levels of meat and dairy consumption and production. That means almond milk, not cow’s milk, and more vegetarian diets, cutting out processed ‘beige’ foods and resource-heavy meat pies and the like.”

Woe to Scots who have ever chosen Benidorm for their holidays, or relished a steak pie to cure a hangover on New Year’s Day – it will be Largs for you, and quinoa!

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As a moderate climate convert, I do accept the need for action. What I do not accept is that there are policy absolutes which require enforcement without any weighing of pros and cons. For example, I can see a Scotland trying to tackle its declared climate emergency will be almost irrelevant because we account for only a tiny fraction of global emissions. But science tells us every country must eventually get to net zero emissions or we’ll keep warming the planet. As a wealthy nation with the ability to cut emissions, it would be unworthy of us to respond by not doing our fair share.

What about going much faster? The Extinction Rebellion protesters have demanded we all get to zero emissions by 2025. That is in essence impossible, or achievable only at such vast cost to, and impact on, our living standards that trying to do it would postpone the case for genuine action for a generation and more.

And it would, apart from anything else, have unpleasant overtones, as in the quote above, of a politically correct elite dictating what is good for it to an insubordinate and unruly working class who, after all, only ask to escape a dreich climate for a couple of weeks of fun in the sun.

A fascist writes: “Is that really what we want in democratic Scotland?”