OPTIMISM surges through me like hopeful adrenaline. For as long as I can remember I have been an optimist, the glass is way beyond half-full and sometimes it rages to the top of the tumbler like Creamola Foam.

The past few months have dented my optimism, but the pandemic will never defeat it. Those effervescent crystals will still sparkle forever, like the volcano of raspberry foam I relished stirring as a kid.

For those prone to gloomy pessimism, I offer my deepest condolences. I don’t really know what you are going through, and I hope I never will.

That said, the coronavirus has been one of the most brutal tests of natural optimism that I can remember: cafes closed, holidays cancelled and people separated are merely the social inconvenience of it all. Far worse is the irreparable damage to the everyday economy, the catastrophes that have befallen our care system, and of course the deaths.

This week the global death rate reached five million, almost the entire population of Scotland.

Much as I am a happy clapper who rushes to the door to bang out my support for the NHS, I have a nagging feeling that the pandemic is testing my zest for life and gradually wearing me down. I suspect I am not alone.

The New York Times columnist Farhad Manjoo has described the coronavirus as a “a heat-seeking missile designed to frustrate progress in almost every corner of society, from politics to the economy to the environment”.

But ever the optimist, he too sees a huge silver lining. “This crisis could be the jolt we need to fix American institutions,’’ he wrote recently. “We need to take a long, hard look at all the ways the pandemic can push this little planet of ours to further ruin — and then work like crazy, together, to stave off the coming hell.”

Although Manjoo is talking about the Trump administration and the international humiliation of a president who advises drinking bleach and admits that he has taken the anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine as a coronavirus treatment, although his own Food and Drug Administration has cautioned against it, his metaphor of a jolt that can help fix America rings true.

I share his belief that the pandemic will be a jolt to the body politic in many countries and one that will unlock huge opportunities for Scotland.

Imagine the dramatic scene in the film One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest in which Jack Nicholson is held down by asylum nurses as electroconvulsive charges surge through him. It’s not quite how I see Scotland, but each new day seems to cast us as the lunatic, trapped inside institutions that only periodically work in our favour and cannot easily escape.

The lockdown may have worn us down, but it has also shown us glimpses of values that our consumer society had led us to believe were in decline. Neighbourliness, small acts of kindness and rallying together are obvious among them but so too are other factors, the reliance on cars has declined and daily commutes to a centralised workplace has eased.

Many commentators have highlighted, the so-called “blessing in disguise”, where pollution and carbon emissions are reducing and nature is reclaiming itself.

It has also shown us that leadership can be much closer to home and we do not have to outsource it to another country.

Optimism is the very soul of the independence movement, which imagines a new future where we will have the power to choose our own direction, our own cultural values and indeed be the authors of our own mistakes.

I have several friends in the media who sneer with knowing superiority at the All Under One Banner (AOUB) marches and dismiss them as flag-waving.

They seriously miss the point. Yes, flags are waved and songs are sung, but the real purpose is not to wave flags or to cover miles of ground.

It is to galvanise a spirit of optimism that is very much alive in Scotland in an era in which large tracts of our media have buckled under a pessimism of both the intellect and the will.

BACK in the day, I remember going to one of those insufferable management away-days with my employer Channel 4. Some dodgy shaman had conned the chief executive into paying him a fortune to run a session with senior managers to assess their optimism for the years ahead as the internet, digital and satellite broadcasting and the rise of the powerful indie sector were all chipping away at Channel 4’s self-confidence.

We were dispatched into little groups in an overpriced country mansion, the kind where the soap is wrapped up in corrugated cardboard and a lavender organza pouch is left by your pillow at night.

I went into the exercise with quiet confidence in the knowledge that a guy with

atopic eczema from Letham in Perth could see off the errant cynicism of the Oxbridge graduates that dominated the room. I knew whatever the rules of the away-day game we were about to play, that I would come out of the exercise as an irredeemable optimist. It is what Barack Obama has called ‘‘the audacity of hope’’.

The task we were set was to mark ourselves and our work colleagues on a scale of 1-10 on what at the time was being referred to as Fast Company’s ‘Seven Habits Of Optimistic People’.

At the time, the magazine Fast Company was at the cutting edge of new management techniques, tech-savvy workplaces and culturally aware employees.

It was so de rigueur that my colleagues and I carried it around the workplace as if it had the same powerful signifiers as a cool new LP in the grey days before psychedelia.

The seven habits are worth listing in order that you can play the game too. So, get your pencils ready. They are as follows: a habit of regularly expressing gratitude; donating your time and energy to others or to a good cause; having an interest in others; surrounding yourself with upbeat people; not listening to naysayers; a capacity to forgive, and a tendency to smile rather than frown or show no facial emotions.

I register well in all of these and some of them are off the radar in my life. What about you? My scores could have been a bit higher in some categories. For example, I could do more with local community but set against that I have a good track record in helping new talent.

Elsewhere the scores were consistently high. I sometimes have to stop myself from saying good morning to everyone I pass on the school walk, people I don’t know and may never talk too.

I yearn for those daft moments of everyday greetings, the handshake, the high five, and even the fist-bump. Will they ever come back?

What is significant about the seven habits is that they are not fundamentally tied to wealth.

There are endless surveys that equate happiness and wellbeing with wealth and social security, but optimism is not the same as happiness, it is more hardwired to hopes and dreams, and the prospect of better things to come.

Scotland is locked down for now but there’s a route map which outlines a cautious way out of the pandemic.

My only minor irritation is that it doesn’t sketch out where the path will lead.

Ever the optimist, I hope it leads the jolt we need to fix Scotland’s public institutions. And no-one will do that for us.

Optimism has stayed with me from the excitability of childhood and I aim to carry it forward into my inevitable senility.