SO, colleagues, what is the subtle distinction between hope and optimism? For this we turn to that authoritative source of the ages, the cult Irn-Bru advert.

The current version features an equable doctor (Sanjeev Kohli) diagnosing a young, Scotland-top-wearing woman. She complains about moments of random grinning, the butterflies in her stomach, her spontaneous arm-raising.

“Are you … a Scotland fan? I thought cases like this were long gone”, muses the doctor. “You’ve got a bout of optimism!” He prescribes a can of the golden nectar and two plane tickets, with the fervent injunction: “Get yirsel tae GERMANY!!!”

“Mon SCOTLAND!!!” concludes the doctor, so strenuously that his trousers need re-adjusting. The waiting room is full of beaming Tartan Army regulars, arms stuck aloft. Irn-Bru nails it home with the caption: “Optimism is back in Scotland.”

I should make it obvious that the reference here is to the Scotland Men’s Football team, and their attendance at the Euro Championships in Germany over the next month. And I retain an essential disdain for what my besmirched mentor, Jim Sillars, used to call “90-minute nationalism”.

It’s like shucking off God during my Highers, realising that prayer for a result was no substitute for hard grind. In the same way, I have surgically disconnected the advance of my beloved indy from the risk-laden passing game and wafer-thin performance margins of our national squad.

But the Bru ad does highlight what we might mean by optimism, rather than hope, in Scottish life.

A recent American visitor to our shores, the inspirational radical theologian Cornel West, sees the distinction very clearly. As West says in one of his masterclasses: “Hope is about making a leap beyond the evidence that is given to you. Optimism usually looks at the evidence and sees whether it’s possible to infer that things are going to get better.”

In that sense, Irn-Bru (or the Leith ad agency they’ve employed) are using “optimism” with some precision.

We’ve had long years of hapless failure to qualify for tournaments, perpetrated by Scottish squads and managers. But Steve Clarke is indeed providing the evidence that makes it “possible to infer that things are going to get better” (that is, he’s taken enough leads against strong opposition and defended them, leading to our second Euro involvement in a row).

We can be “optimists”, because our record of excellence is the foundation for our belief that we can advance, in the coming contest.

Of course, football fans have a sense of the distinction from their own lore: “It’s the hope that kills”, as the cliche has it. Much of the scholarly literature on hope and optimism would agree with the fitba’-crazy, in that hope is a much more emotional, less rational affair. It is, indeed, about “making a leap beyond the evidence given”.

Each game, before it starts, is still to some degree a game of chance. There’s an element of chaos in gameplay that always gives the underdog some possibilities.

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West thinks that there is a creativity that emerges from such an understanding of hope. Miraculous inventions come through, even – and sometimes particularly – when the forces ranged against seem at their most impervious. Of course, Professor West’s context for hope is white supremacy, and the gloriously generous jazz-and-blues response to it made by black Americans. That’s what hope sounds like.

But my generation will recall an exact football example of the magic that hope can draw out of disaster. And that’s Archie Gemmill’s goal against a supreme Netherlands team in the 1978 World Cup. This was when a desperate, demoralised Scotland, needing to win by three clear goals to qualify from their group, got close to doing for a shining moment. We were brought there by Gemmill’s genius-level touch and control of the space around him.

So yes, it can be the hope that creates – but aye, it also kills. We ended with a Scottish 3-2 victory, crashing out of a competition that many had expected Scotland would be contending as potential winners.

The clip of Gemmill’s goal circulates on social media as one of the greatest ever (it’s also inspired poetry and dance). But we know what happened one year (and a rigged devolution referendum) later…

And there, I’ve broken my own rule – entwining constitutional advance with sporting advance, and vice versa. But let’s follow the parallels a little while we’re here, even if just to shrug them off.

Certainly, many might foment “optimism for Scotland” as something based on the “display of competence” from both government and national team. We have many talents, and some of the resources: with enough forethought and managerial organisation, Scottish capacities can be marshalled to bring novel and desired outcomes.

The National: John Swinney

John Swinney (above) and Clarke are, in this sense, isomorphic: their mindsets match, both seeking to build the future on evidence from past performance.

“Hope for Scotland”, for both football and government, is by comparison much more challenging. The assumption is that the odds against us are overwhelming – but precisely because of that, we are driven to great singular acts of creativity and courage, which then inspire others sharing the same predicament.

Stealing the Stone of Destiny, the tank man refusing to budge in Tiananmen Square, Greta Thunberg’s actions in the street triggering a generation of protest – these are the actions of the hope-driven. They do what they can with their bodies, hearts and minds, often turning normal life upside down.

The Czech dissident (and eventually president) Vaclav Havel was most fluent around hope.

“Hope is an ability to work for something because it is good, not just because it stands a chance to succeed”, he wrote in 1991’s Disturbing The Peace (a collection of his writings while living under communism).

“The more unpropitious the situation in which we demonstrate hope, the deeper that hope is. Hope is definitely not the same thing as optimism. It is not the conviction that something will turn out well, but the certainty that something makes sense, regardless of how it turns out.

Havel continues: “It is also this hope, above all, which gives us the strength to live and continually to try new things, even in conditions that seem as hopeless as ours do, here and now.”

The sweet spot for indy politics (if we lay down the sporting parallel) would seem to be a strategy that dips into both hope and optimism. The current SNP minority government, shorn of a Green perspective, wants to return to an “optimistic” vision of all Scotland’s powers and natural resources.

Certainly, the past and present of fossil fuels in Scottish economic life (as one of my recent columns noted) makes it easy to reproduce posters like “It’s Scotland’s Oil”, currently appearing in campaign literature.

But to what degree is that a fake optimism or confidence? It seems heedless of the deepening despair of the majority of climate scientists. Many are rending their garments at the Global North’s inability to hit its zero-carbon targets – and the calamity and chaos our current trajectories will cause.

There’s a certain desolation in me that sees decades of ambitious climate targets in Scotland being trashed. Whether as a result of the petty stramashes of electoral campaigns, or as strategic failures consequent upon insufficient powers granted to Holyrood.

That’s where West and Havel’s characterisation of hope over optimism comes in. If Scotland is sliding backwards towards the carbon era, what are the bold and crazy actions and notions that can keep our awareness of climatic danger clear and present in Scottish minds? What does our hope keep alive, as opposed to our optimism make plausible?

Hugh MacDiarmid, as ever, had a line for Scottish hope: “For we ha’e faith in Scotland’s hidden poo’ers,/The present’s theirs, but a’ the past and future’s oors.”

Having said that, I’ll join with the general “liquid optimism” (as the Bru ads put it) on the opener with Germany. Otherwise, that’s a hope that could kill.