You must realise that I am far from feeling beaten … my mind is pessimistic, but my will is optimistic. Whatever the situation, I imagine the worst that could happen in order to summon up all my reserves and will power to overcome every obstacle. – Antonio Gramsci, 1920

LIKE Gramsci I am far from beaten but I do detect an ominous disquiet in Scotland.

How do we break the spell that has cast us as supplicants to the worst Prime Minister in history, to a ­Conservative Party that we did not vote for and an ideological obsession that dragged us out of Europe and deepened the ­economic chaos we are living through.

Gramsci’s famous thesis about the ­pessimism of the intellect and the optimism of the will is currently being played out as near operatic drama as we journey towards Scottish independence.

A referendum is promised in October 2023, one that almost every branch of the media tells us will not and cannot legally happen, and among our ranks are those so ill-disposed to the current leadership of the independence movement, that they carp at each new announcement, as if they resent their own team more than the opposition.

Pessimism is in vogue. It blizzards daily through social media and is the ­intellectual default of the billionaire-owned newspapers that listen like a ­faithful retainer to their master’s voice.

But rest assured exciting times are just around the corner. The launch of a ­second independence referendum has rattled cages and the First Ministers’ ­announcements have fired the starting gun, even if some refuse to hear it whilst others threaten to boycott.

This week the mood will intensify. ­Nicola Sturgeon is scheduled to announce a “significant update” on how a “lawful” referendum could be held without the UK government agreeing a Section 30 order.

I cannot wait for the meltdown that will ensue as rattled Unionist hacks try to argue that the kind of ­consultative ­referendum that engineered Brexit ­cannot possibly be used to advance ­Scottish ­democracy.

They will argue this because they have nowhere else to go. So, cue an ­avalanche of exaggeration and dishonest vitriol, ­peppered with words like ­“wildcat”, ­“illegal” and “reckless”. And if that doesn’t work the most pitiful response of all: a boycott.

Indyref2 has already forced one quaint old dormouse to scuttle out from the eaves of the library. There was much ­excitement among the Unionist beard stokers last week, when David Torrance published a blog on the legal complexities of independence.

Such was its dogged certainties that It was shared by the BBC’s political editor and turned into a news piece in the highly rationed Scottish pages of The Times.

Torrance’s most recent distraction is that in choosing to battle with the Big Tobacco companies to see off cigarette machines on national health grounds, the Scottish Government through some arcane interpretation of law, had shot themselves in the foot and so ended the prospect of delivering a successful ­independence campaign.

It was nit-picking in extremis. In ­trying to see off the humble fag-machine and save wheezing lungs across Scotland, it seems that the SNP unintentionally brought democracy to a shuddering end.

Much as I found his argument specious and inconsequential, I cannot be alone in feeling a tinge of nostalgia for Torrance. Since his move to the creaky corridors of Westminster he has been a largely absent figure in Scotland of late.

Torrance is the author of several books on Scottish politics, one of which ­breathlessly greeted the rise of a new self-confident conservatism under Ruth ­Davidson. Alas when the arse fell out of that particular fantasy, both beat a retreat. Ruth headed to the unelected House of Lords and Torrance took a job as a constitutional expert in the House of Commons Library, leaving the glory of the new conservatism to the beleaguered Douglas Ross and a thumping ­humiliation at the ballot box.

Everything Torrance discovers among the sepia papers and cobwebbed journals is bad news. He is a well-paid expert in ­unearthing obscure barriers to change and, in that respect, he is the bearded personification of intellectual pessimism.

The problem we currently face is that almost all the columns published daily across the mainstream press and those given oxygen on radio and television, ­reflect the same relentless negativity.

It is hardly surprising that pessimism has such a grip. A hyped-up headline in a daily newspaper will form the basis of radio talk-shows, newspaper reviews and the nightly round of serious political ­programmes.

But amidst this loaded intellectual ­pessimism is a great source for optimism too. Throughout the next 12 months and more, we will not only be talking about independence but about democracy itself.

In opening the debate on the second independence referendum, the First ­Minister, set the scene saying, “First and foremost this is an issue of democracy and respecting democracy. Respecting people’s votes in elections. The onus shouldn’t be on us to come up with a Plan B or a Plan C or a Plan Z, there is a perfectly well understood political and democratic precedent for how this is done, and that is the basis on which we published in December, following the precedent of 2014”.

Although Sturgeon’s words fell not so much on stony ground but on boulders of ideological resistance, they are hard to refute.

Rather than put forward the democratic arguments on behalf of change, a phalanx of the usual suspects prefer to fetishise the barriers loaded against independence.

You can sense their glee when they ­return yet again to their specialist ­subjects, Westminster says no, what ­currency will you use and do you want a hard border at Carlisle?

Such is the grip that Unionism has over Scotland’s public discourse that our best paid journalists are required to argue that a bleak, impoverishing and neo-racist Unionism is preferable to change.

For some it comes easy, stitched into their upbringing, their schooling and their love of contrariness, but for other journalists it must be soul destroying to play a role in demeaning their own ­profession and its loftiest values.

If the big questions stymie the SNP, and they are unquestionably tricky ­questions that need honestly answered, they also send a shuddering salvo across the bows of the Scottish Labour Party, the once great left-of-centre juggernaut which last week was humiliated on national ­television by one of their own.

When David Lammy, Labour’s shadow foreign secretary, all but conceded that Labour in Scotland is “a branch office” wedded to Unionism and with no room to manoeuvre, his words must have tasted like cold-sick on the lips of some members.

In an agonisingly abrupt response to a question on Sky’s Kay Burley Show he said: “We are a Unionist party, we believe in the Union” then when asked about ­Labour’s position on a second Scottish ­independence referendum he added that he could “rule it out, categorically”.

This must have been a body-blow for those on the Labour left who still hold on to party democracy, and those noisy and emotional conferences where the big uses were debated.

The idea that such a major area of ­public policy has been decided on the hoof in a television studio is not the sure-footedness Lammy imagines. Are Labour supporters in Scotland not allowed to have divergent views on re-entry to the EU, drugs policy, or staving off the wholesale privatisation of health?

It may suit the Labour Party’s current mood of petrified centrism but it has left Scottish Labour looking like a powerless laughing stock, worked from behind and shackled to policies that position them as bedfellows of the Tory Government.

But there is optimism around every ­corner and the current RMT strike, a ­union that supported independence in 2014, is offering a glimmer of hope that many are gleefully responding to.

Ideas like hope, optimism and the ­power of change will become standout features of popular politics in the months to come, and the most affirmative word in the English language – the word “Yes” – will come excitedly to the fore again.