Chinese officials affirm zero-Covid stance despite protests



Chinese authorities have affirmed their commitment to a severe “zero-Covid” strategy after crowds demanded the resignation of President Xi Jinping during protests against measures that confine millions of people to their homes.

The government made no comment on the protests or criticism of Mr Xi following the most widespread display of opposition to the ruling Communist Party in decades.

There was no official word on how many people were detained after police used pepper spray against protesters in Shanghai and struggled to suppress demonstrations in other cities including the capital, Beijing.

Officials have eased anti-virus rules in some scattered areas, such as Urumqi and the city of Korla in Xinjiang.

In Beijing, the city government announced it would no longer set up gates to block access to apartment compounds where infections are found.

It made no mention of a deadly fire last week that triggered the protests following angry questions online about whether firefighters or victims trying to escape were blocked by locked doors or other anti-virus controls.

A city official in charge of epidemic control told the official China News Service: “Passages must remain clear for medical transportation, emergency escapes and rescues.”

China’s zero-Covid strategy, which aims to isolate every infected person, has helped to keep the country’s case numbers lower than those of the United States and other major countries.

But people in some areas have been confined to their homes for up to four months, and say they lack reliable food supplies.

The ruling party promised last month to reduce the disruption of zero-Covid by changing quarantine and other rules.

But public acceptance is wearing thin after a spike in infections prompted cities to tighten controls, fuelling complaints that overzealous enforcement is hurting the public.

On Monday, the number of new daily cases rose to 40,347, including 36,525 with no symptoms.

The ruling party newspaper People’s Daily called for its anti-virus strategy to be carried out effectively, indicating Mr Xi’s government has no plans to change course.

A People’s Daily commentator wrote: “Facts have fully proved that each version of the prevention and control plan has withstood the test of practice.”

Also on Monday, the southern manufacturing and trade metropolis of Guangzhou, the biggest hotspot in China’s latest wave of infections, announced some residents will no longer be required to undergo mass testing, citing a need to conserve resources.

Protests spread to at least eight major cities after at least 10 people died on Thursday in the fire in an apartment building in Urumqi in the north-western region of Xinjiang.

Most protesters complained about excessive restrictions, but some shouted slogans against Mr Xi, China’s most powerful leader since at least the 1980s. In a video that was verified by The Associated Press, a crowd in Shanghai on Saturday chanted: “Xi Jinping! Step down! CCP! Step down!”

Police using pepper spray broke up that demonstration, but people returned to the same spot on Sunday for another protest. A reporter saw an unknown number being driven away in a police bus after being detained.

Elsewhere, videos on social media that said they were filmed in Nanjing in the east, Chongqing and Chengdu in the south-west and other cities showed protesters tussling with police in white protective suits or dismantling barricades used to seal off neighbourhoods.

Earlier, the ruling party faced public anger over the deaths of two children whose parents said anti-virus controls hampered efforts to get emergency medical help.

Anti-virus measures have been eased in scattered areas. Urumqi and a smaller city in Xinjiang, Korla, announced markets and other businesses in areas deemed at low risk of infection will reopen this week and public bus services will resume in what appears to be an attempt to mollify the public.

There was no indication whether residents in higher-risk areas would be allowed out of their homes.





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Matt Hancock I’m A Celebrity final run is damning indictment of voters



On Saturday, a man who as recently as June 2021 was the United Kingdom’s Secretary of State for Health and Social Care reached the final of ‘I’m A Celebrity…Get Me Out Of Here!’. 

The following night, ITV’s official ‘I’m A Celebrity…’ account tweeted: “His arrival turned heads, but his triumphant return from Trials kept Camp smiling. Matt Hancock is leaving the jungle in third place”. 

‘Turned heads’, but not in a ‘thousands of needless deaths turned heads’ or ‘health secretary breaking his own social distancing rules turned heads’ way, of course.

Matt Hancock? I’m not really a politics person, so I just know him as the guy who apparently did something wrong a while back but has been acting really humble in the jungle and, you know what, I think everyone deserves a second chance.

Yeah, you’ve been his target audience for the past three weeks.

What do you mean?

The sort of person who just sees politics as another TV show with goodies, baddies and no real-life consequences. 

READ MORE: The Festival of Brexit appropriately cost a lot and completely failed to deliver

So what has Hancock done that supposedly makes his appearance on the show inappropriate?

An estimated 29,000 excess deaths in UK care homes on his watch. Accusations of cronyism after a £40 million NHS Test and Trace contract was secured by his former neighbour, who had no previous experience of producing medical supplies. Being caught on CCTV passionately kissing a colleague, in a simultaneous breach of his marriage and social distancing rules.

You mean the social distancing rules created by his own party? That’s embarrassing. 

Indeed.

Who was the Health Secretary responsible for creating those rules that Hancock so shamelessly flouted?

I’d have to check Wikipedia, but I’m sure whoever it was would have had a frank conversation with Hancock about his conduct.

READ MORE: Matt Hancock has become an I’m A Celeb fave – how is that fair?

And now he’s trying to make the public forget all about that by appearing on the jungle show?

Yep. Hancock took a few weeks out of representing his constituents in West Suffolk to sing his redemption song on reality TV.

Couldn’t that be seen as Hancock neglecting the people who elected him, solely for the purpose of rehabilitating his reputation? 

Calling that the only reason for his appearance is pretty cynical.

Fair enough. What’s the other reason?

He’s reportedly been paid £400,000. 

So, this is the template for managing political scandals? Just wait until it dies down then look a bit sad while munching camel penis and all is forgiven?

COMING SOON: ‘Yes, the whole £29m PPE thing looks dodgy, but Michelle Mone’s stunning pasodoble makes her a deserving winner of this year’s Strictly Come Dancing’. 





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China protests: Journalists arrested amid zero-Covid unrest



China is facing what some are calling the biggest mass demonstrations since Tiananmen Square, with unhappy citizens taking to the streets and at least two foreign journalists arrested.

The unrest comes after close to three years of various lockdowns in the country, which has been pursuing a ‘zero-Covid’ strategy since the beginning of the pandemic.

The disease which would reshape the world as we know it was first discovered in Wuhan in late 2019, with the novel coronavirus isolated and identified by Chinese scientists the following year. By January 31 two Chinese tourists in Italy had tested positive for the virus and the pandemic went global.

The Chinese Communist Party decided to adopt a ‘zero-Covid’ strategy based on eliminating transmission of the virus through strict quarantining measures. Those diagnosed with the virus are quarantined either at home or in government facilities, local authorities impose lockdowns even if there are only a handful of cases, and aggressive contact tracing is employed.

Requirements for isolation have been relaxed, with the mandatory period now eight days rather than 10, but China still has some of the strictest restrictions in the world.

Such is the scale of the response to the pandemic, the Chinese government website lists ‘high risk’ areas down to the level of individual buildings. On Monday, for example, Building 1, Guanghua Road in Beijing’s Chaoyang District was given a high risk classification while Unit 1, Building 21, Guanbei Street was designated low risk.

To some extent this has been effective. The Beijing government can point to the fact that China has one of the lowest Covid death rates in the world – just 0.3 per 100,000 people as of September 2022 compared to 306 in the UK – and after containing the initial outbreak it had only two deaths in the subsequent 18 months.

The weekend brought China’s first officially recorded Covid deaths since May, in three individuals with pre-existing health conditions aged 87 to 91, and cases are soaring with more than 30,000 reported on Sunday alone.

That’s a problem in a country where just over half the 80+ population have had two doses of a Covid vaccine, where there is very little immunity due to low case rates, and where concerns exist that the two main vaccines – Sinovac and Sinopharm – may not be as effective against the Omicron variant. So far preventing transmission has been China’s answer, but that may not be sustainable.

President Xi Jinping, recently elected to a third term by the CCP congress, has called the zero-Covid approach “scientific and effective”, but discontent with repeated lockdowns is growing.

A fire in Urumqi, Xinjiang region which killed 10 was blamed by protestors on the lockdown the city has been living under since August, with claims that people were prevented from leaving their apartments. Chinese state media denies this charge. Other incidents include a bus crash which killed 27 people en route to a quarantine facility, and reports of pregnant women losing babies in isolation due to a lack of medical care.

Protests have also been reported in cities such as Xi’an, Chongqing and Nanjing, many at universities.

The symbol of protest has become a blank sheet of A4. Rather than writing dissident messages, students and others have held up white paper to symbolise “the accusations in our hearts”, as one protestor told Reuters.

As is often the case with China, separating the fact from the fiction in a tightly-controlled media environment can be difficult. For example, it was reported that due to the ‘white paper revolution’, stationery maker Shanghai M&G had taken blank A4 sheets off the shelves for national security reasons. The company issued an emergency notice to the stock exchange insisting that was not true, and said documents purporting to show such a move were fake.

Read More: Chinese officials affirm zero-Covid stance despite protests

What is certain is that a number of protestors have been arrested – as have journalists. The BBC said its reporter Ed Lawrence was detained and beaten by Chinese authorities before being released. Authorities said he had failed to present his press credentials and had been arrested to prevent him catching Covid from the crowd. At least one other journalist, a Swiss national, was detained over the weekend despite Chinese law providing “unfettered access” for foreign media.

The growing discontent has put the CCP in an awkward position – relaxing restrictions may quell discontent, but a spike in deaths due to Covid could cause further social unrest.

So far it appears the strategy has been to try and censor the protests, as well as restricting access to images from countries without lockdown measures. The FIFA World Cup in Qatar is being shown on a 30 second delay, with the state broadcaster avoiding crowd shots showing maskless fans packed into stadiums. That is not in itself unusual – the chance of a Tibetan flag or similar being held aloft means censors generally avoid close-ups of crowds – but has been noted by fans watching on from home.

Crack down or ease lockdown? That’s the choice facing Xi Jinping and his government.





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Mobile drug and alcohol harm reduction unit launched in Renfrewshire



A mobile harm reduction unit has been introduced in Renfrewshire in a bid to bring down drug-related deaths. 

The service has been launched by NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde (NHSGGC) with a “central aim of moving services to the heart of local communities”. 

A Harm Reduction Response Team (HaRRT) will engage with people consuming drugs or alcohol and support those wishing to access treatment and care services for the first time. 

It will provide access to a free supply and disposal of injecting equipment, blood testing, and wound first aid alongside the training and distribution of Naloxone. 

Naloxone is a medication used to reverse the effects of an opioid overdose. 

The initiative is launched after Scotland recorded 1330 drug-related deaths in 2021.

It is the first time the figure has dropped even slightly in eight years, but it remains the second-highest yearly total on record.

READ MORE: What the latest figures reveal about Scotland’s drug deaths crisis

Joanna Campbell, the injecting equipment provision manager for for Alcohol and Drug Recovery Services at NHSGGC, said the team will provide a “safe and confidential environment within the community”.

She said: “Every drug death within our communities is one too many and NHS Greater Glasgow & Clyde continues to work in conjunction with Renfrewshire Health and Social Care Partnership (HSCP), Renfrewshire Council and Renfrewshire Alcohol and Drug Partnership to reduce the harm that substances can have.

“Alcohol and drugs can have a severe impact on people’s lives if they do not have support or access to the relevant care services available to them.

“HaRRT provides a safe and confidential environment within the community and will help signpost users to treatment programmes that can assist with addiction issues.

“Having this service available in Renfrewshire will be a welcome addition to the services already in place across the area.”

Renfrewshire Health and Social Care Partnership will provide advice to substance users on how they can be safer when taking drugs while offering support and care opportunities.

Karen Reynolds, service manager for the partnership, said: “HaRRT is one of many forward-thinking exciting service developments for Alcohol and Drugs Recovery Services in Renfrewshire, with the central aim of moving services to the heart of local communities.

“The flexible and agile ability of how HaRRT can respond to local needs and the close working relationships with many Renfrewshire partners, hopes to reduce the harm and the negative impact associated with problematic alcohol and drug use.

“Unfortunately, sometimes those most in need are not always in the care of services so the hope is that HaRRT will begin to bridge this gap and connect people into treatment.”

The Harm Reduction Response Team is part of the Alcohol and Drugs Change Programme that oversees work to meet the recommendations of the Renfrewshire Alcohol and Drugs Commission.

 





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Matt Hancock I’m A Celebrity final run is damning indictment of voters



On Saturday, a man who as recently as June 2021 was the United Kingdom’s Secretary of State for Health and Social Care reached the final of ‘I’m A Celebrity…Get Me Out Of Here!’. 

The following night, ITV’s official ‘I’m A Celebrity…’ account tweeted: “His arrival turned heads, but his triumphant return from Trials kept Camp smiling. Matt Hancock is leaving the jungle in third place”. 

‘Turned heads’, but not in a ‘thousands of needless deaths turned heads’ or ‘health secretary breaking his own social distancing rules turned heads’ way, of course.

Matt Hancock? I’m not really a politics person, so I just know him as the guy who apparently did something wrong a while back but has been acting really humble in the jungle and, you know what, I think everyone deserves a second chance.

Yeah, you’ve been his target audience for the past three weeks.

What do you mean?

The sort of person who just sees politics as another TV show with goodies, baddies and no real-life consequences. 

READ MORE: The Festival of Brexit appropriately cost a lot and completely failed to deliver

So what has Hancock done that supposedly makes his appearance on the show inappropriate?

An estimated 29,000 excess deaths in UK care homes on his watch. Accusations of cronyism after a £40 million NHS Test and Trace contract was secured by his former neighbour, who had no previous experience of producing medical supplies. Being caught on CCTV passionately kissing a colleague, in a simultaneous breach of his marriage and social distancing rules.

You mean the social distancing rules created by his own party? That’s embarrassing. 

Indeed.

Who was the Health Secretary responsible for creating those rules that Hancock so shamelessly flouted?

I’d have to check Wikipedia, but I’m sure whoever it was would have had a frank conversation with Hancock about his conduct.

READ MORE: Matt Hancock has become an I’m A Celeb fave – how is that fair?

And now he’s trying to make the public forget all about that by appearing on the jungle show?

Yep. Hancock took a few weeks out of representing his constituents in West Suffolk to sing his redemption song on reality TV.

Couldn’t that be seen as Hancock neglecting the people who elected him, solely for the purpose of rehabilitating his reputation? 

Calling that the only reason for his appearance is pretty cynical.

Fair enough. What’s the other reason?

He’s reportedly been paid £400,000. 

So, this is the template for managing political scandals? Just wait until it dies down then look a bit sad while munching camel penis and all is forgiven?

COMING SOON: ‘Yes, the whole £29m PPE thing looks dodgy, but Michelle Mone’s stunning pasodoble makes her a deserving winner of this year’s Strictly Come Dancing’. 





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Ayr hospital A&E medic ‘shook and slapped patient’ in face



AN A&E doctor is being investigated over allegations he said “that felt good” after shaking and slapping a patient across the face during treatment.

Dr Ziyad Al-Janabi, a specialist medic, was working in the emergency department at University Hospital Ayr when the alleged incident took place in May 2020.

It is now up to an expert panel at the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service (MPTS) to determine what happened and whether Dr Al-Janabi’s fitness to practise is impaired.

READ MORE: Argyll sex health medic investigated over ‘inappropriate behaviour’

The tribunal is considering a number of claims against Dr Al-Janabi, including the allegation that held and “shook Patient A’s head and/or shoulders” and “inappropriately shouted at Patient A” during a consultation on May 23 2020.

He is also alleged to have “slapped” the man on his cheek before saying “‘that felt good”.

Dr Al-Janabi – who studied medicine at Glasgow University and graduated in 2002 – has admitted to saying “that felt good”, but the remaining allegations are still being investigated.

Disciplinary hearings got underway today in Manchester, where the MPTS is headquartered, and are expected to continue until December 7.

READ MORE: Carrick Glen private hospital bought by NHS Ayrshire 

It is up to the MPTS to rule on whether a UK-registered doctor’s fitness to practise is impaired and, if so, how they should be sanctioned.

In the worst cases, it can erase doctors from the medical register – meaning they can no longer practise in the UK – but lesser options include suspension or a supervision order.

The MPTS considers evidence about alleged misconduct by doctors brought by the General Medical Council (GMC) – the regulatory body for doctors.

The MPTS service was founded in 2012 following the recommendations of the Shipman Inquiry, which called for the creation of a fitness to practise adjudication body which would be independent of the GMC.

*This year the Herald is running its best Black Friday offer to date – with four months of access for just £1. Subscribe and support our work at https://www.heraldscotland.com/subscribe/





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We need to be wary of the potential for our law firms to be taken over


BILLY Briggs identifies a number of major Scottish concerns which have been acquired by foreign bodies (“How Scotland’s vital infrastructures are linked to China and ‘Vampire Kangaroo’”, The Herald, November 23) and expresses disapproval of some of the consequences of this phenomenon. It may be more far-reaching than he describes.

After three centuries of ring-fenced security and international respect, the ownership of the Scottish legal services industry stands on the brink of foreign, non-legal acquisition, at the behest of the Scottish Parliament and the Competition and Markets Authority, to name but two of the villains in the piece.

About 14 years ago the Scottish Parliament concocted legislation that would authorise the sale in the commercial market of Scottish law firms whose ownership since time untold, within the British Union, had been retained strictly within the Scottish jurisdiction, to serve the public interest of the Scottish people. That is until the Scottish Parliament, led by the nationalist administration, created the Legal Services (Scotland) Act 2010 which authorised the sale abroad, to lawyers and non-lawyers alike, of Scottish law firms.

At that time the solicitors’ profession was given to understand that this change of law would not be given effect unless it had the general support of that profession. I was party at that time to a number of surveys taken from the solicitors’ profession and these produced an 80%-plus rejection of the proposals contained in the 2010 Bill.

Bear in mind that the solicitors’ profession is based upon a public law monopoly in the provision of legal services such as the purchase and sale of land and buildings and representation of litigants in court. This valuable monopoly is a public interest held by the legal profession in trust for the benefit of the people of Scotland and which appears to have no legitimate place in its sale outwith the entrusted profession, abroad or otherwise, by individuals for private profit.

The 2010 changes were not given effect in 2010 or since then. However, now that the years have run and the huge potential prizes have only increased in value, people have forgotten about the curious change in the law that was made in 2010 and we are now told that the changes are about to be given effect so that solicitors’ firms may soon fall prey to acquisition by foreign persons or bodies.

I have reported and publicised this state of affairs on many occasions over the years but to no lasting effect and I now turn to your columns not with any prospect of halting the drift, but just so that I can say that I told you so.
Michael Sheridan, Glasgow

A Central Park for Glasgow

YOUR excellent series of articles on “Who owns Urban Scotland” (The Herald, November 21-25) correctly identified the need for the planning system to adopt a more flexible approach to encourage a wider mix of land uses in urban centres. In the case of Glasgow the scale of the transformation of the Merchant City has shown what can be achieved.

Encouraging more residential uses into the inner city is to be encouraged but it must be complemented, thinking again of the “Dear Green Place”, by the creation of a major city centre park – not more hard landscaping – for these new residents to enjoy.

Lockdown with its restrictions on movement brought to the fore the need for urban “green lungs”. The next step following your articles should be to think big and campaign for specific projects, for example the purchase of a major city centre site to create Glasgow’s own Central Park.
Will Reid, Bishopton

Europe offers no NHS panacea

I AGREE with John Sinclair (Letters, November 23) that “the 1948 NHS is dead” but his advice that the European model must be followed is no panacea.

He cites what he believes is the successful model of Germany. I am sorry to disabuse him of his ideal, but Germany is facing the same problems as the UK. The media in Germany are constantly highlighting the current and projected shortages of general practitioners, specialists and nurses as well as the chronic shortage in the elderly care sector. The grass, I am afraid in this instance, is always greener on the other side of the fence.
Morag Black, Houston

• PROTESTATIONS by the First Minister about not seeking a two-tier NHS are vitiated by current two-tier dentistry. I have dental implants inserted by a very able dentist equipped with state of the art technology. I would have had no hope whatsoever of such treatment under the NHS. It was my belief that dentistry was an intrinsic component of the NHS; my belief no more.

Perhaps the First Minister will arrange that I, and others like me, shall receive a refund of our costs. I shall not hold my breath.
William Durward, Bearsden

• I AM happy for Ruth Marr (Letters, November 23) that she got good service from the NHS. However, despite her protestations to the contrary, it was clear from her letter that she believes that everything is OK with the NHS and those of us who struggle even to get through on the telephone to our local GP surgery, let alone get an appointment, are all wrong. Sorry, but one swallow does not a summer make.
Robin Mather, Musselburgh

Remembering paddle power

REGARDING his trip to Arran, Lin Williams says: “Although the weather was bad, I would assume that newer ferries would be more fit for purpose” (Letters, November 21).

In the 19th century, when Clyde services were largely provided by open-bow paddle steamers, no sailing was ever cancelled on account of weather conditions, except when during the force 12 hurricane of 1862 (when the railway track at Craigendoran was washed away) a boat bound for Rothesay turned back at Innellan because the chief engineer told the captain he was concerned about the amount of water coming down the funnel. Fortunately others were less exasperatingly cautious.

As recently as the 1950s, when I worked on the boats, nobody gave a moment’s thought to cancelling a sailing because of “adverse weather”, since it was accepted that ships were designed to go up and down on water disturbed by the agency of wind. True, we broke ropes and damaged facing piles of piers, but everybody got home.

I remember Captain Donald Crawford agreeing with his colleague Colin McKay that “Even in the coorsest weather, a paddler’s aye got wan wheel in the watter”.
Robin Dow, Rothesay


HeraldScotland:

Letters should not exceed 500 words. We reserve the right to edit submissions.






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Me and my midlife crisis … on the psychotherapist’s couch


This week our Writer at Large went to interview the renowned psychotherapist Andrew Jamieson about his latest book exploring how a midlife crisis is actually good for you. Soon, though, he found himself on the couch, discovering more than he bargained for…


OSTENSIBLY, I’m here to interview the renowned psychotherapist Andrew Jamieson about his latest book which sets out a paradigm-shifting take on the infamous midlife crisis.

Not only is the midlife crisis good for you, Jamieson contends, it is actually an essential part of the human story, and the definitive path to making us all better people.

However, the conversation soon takes a turn towards my life, and Jamieson begins analysing me. I mention that his book, Midlife: Humanity’s Secret Weapon, really chimed with me. I saw echoes in my own life.

An hour later and I have learned that I have gone through my own midlife crisis and didn’t even know it. I’m 52 but over recent years I have basically ticked off much of the midlife crisis checklist.

Quit a job unexpectedly? Tick: resigned as a newspaper editor. Health scare? Tick: hospitalised with kidney problems that nearly finished me off. Psychological upset? Tick: diagnosed with PTSD related to a mock execution that happened when I was a reporter in Northern Ireland. Changes in personal circumstances? Tick: purged people who I felt were toxic to be around. Lifestyle change? Tick: I no longer smoke, hardly drink after years of overindulgence and, despite a lifetime of indolence, now regularly exercise.

Changing opinions? Tick: I’m more mellow politically and hopefully more empathetic. Even my cultural tastes have altered. I no longer gorge on dark TV, horror movies, extreme fiction and angry music. I’m now more likely to be found listening to Classic FM or contentedly watching Paddington movies. Have I become a bit boring? Probably. Am I happier? Yes, 100 per cent.

HeraldScotland: Psychotherapist Andrew Jamieson says a midlife crisis is an essential part of the human storyPsychotherapist Andrew Jamieson says a midlife crisis is an essential part of the human story (Image: Newsquest)

Forget the Harley

THE key to understanding Jamieson’s thoughts on midlife crisis is this: it’s not about some 50-year-old buying a Harley-Davidson and running off with the au pair or plumber. It’s about reaching a mature stage in life, and realising – probably subconsciously – that you haven’t been the person you could be: the “best you”.

From there, you start changing in significant, sometimes very hard ways, which bring about enough of an alteration in how you live your life that you become closer to the person you always wanted to be. It’s not magic: you don’t suddenly stop picking your nose or become Jesus. You are still a flawed, imperfect, foolish human – you just learn to be more comfortable in your skin, after taking honest stock of who you are and how you can be better.

First world problems, some would say. Certainly, there is truth in that. If you are hungry or at war, there is no time or energy to work on whatever “new version” of you needs to be created. But we live in the developed world, we are humans made of flesh and blood, and if we can improve ourselves without hurting others, why not?

So, what is a midlife crisis? “The curve of life goes through a series of stable patches, interrupted by a sudden unstable phase when suddenly everything seems out of kilter and wrong,” Jamieson says.

A midlife crisis can take place anywhere between the late 20s and the end of life although old age is the worst time to experience these upheavals, as there are few years left to enjoy the benefits of change.

The peak period, though, is from the late 30s to the early 50s, when perhaps boredom has set in around work or relationships, children have grown up, and there’s a sense of time ticking away. Death looms in the imagination.

Killer whale theory

BASICALLY, a midlife crisis is like a boil on the body. Years of psychological pressures from childhood to the present day just build up and have to pop, otherwise you will be poisoned.

Jamieson notes that “only two species of mammal” experience midlife and “have a post-reproductive life that lasts longer than their reproductive life”: killer whales and humans.

Orcas are led by older, wiser females who have been through every challenge the seas can throw at them and know the best hunting grounds to keep their pod alive. In humans, midlife crisis, Jamieson posits, also creates older, wiser members of the group who provide a “balance between the energy, vigour and competitiveness of those in the first half of life, and the experience, dignity and wisdom of those in the second”.

The power of midlife is most evidenced in tribal societies where age is still venerated, unlike in the West where youth is idolised. In tribal societies, elders who have lived hard lives and come through are “guardians of the ethical approach to life”. A society which simply “follows the young warrior class is doomed”.

In other words, for human society to be its best, it needs both youthful energy and older knowledge.

Midlife provides the bridge. Jamieson’s theories make intuitively good sense – though not for a minute am I claiming to have suddenly become a sage.

I’m just less wild and more comfortable “being me”.

Cuban missle test

JAMIESON notes how in moments of group crisis, it is often older people – who have crucially gone through the rigours of midlife and emerged in better shape than when they went in – who come to the fore offering wise counsel.

The US diplomat Adlai Stevenson, he says, experienced intense distress in midlife, leading to the collapse of his marriage. He was central, though, to providing the patience and calm needed to shepherd a still youthful John F Kennedy through the Cuban missile crisis, averting “armageddon”.

Humans, however, have a strange relationship to both midlife and midlife crisis. Often older people – particularly women – are sidelined, yet we seek the counsel of elders in moments of extremis. Humanity both fears and mocks midlife – just look at movies like American Beauty or Falling Down. However a cursory perusal of world culture shows we have always known just how important it is: Homer’s Odyssey tells the story of a man who goes through intense torment in midlife before becoming older and wiser.

The Divine Comedy begins with Dante writing these lines: “Midway upon the journey of life, I found myself within a dark forest, for the straightforward path had been lost, Oh how hard a thing it is to say.” Dante literally goes to hell, bides a while in purgatory, then discovers paradise. The midlife crisis, Jamieson says, always comes with a “liminal” stage – a period of waiting between dark crisis and positive change, just like purgatory.

Midlife crisis, he says, “is an evolutionary move to produce a cadre of elders” who keep society in balance. Each and everyone one of us will experience midlife crisis. It’s how we deal – or don’t deal – with it that matters.

So, Jamieson notes the life of Mary Ann Evans, the Victorian writer who experienced enormous upheaval and shame in her 30s over an adulterous relationship. She quite literally reinvented herself post-crisis, and is better known today as George Eliot.

The Trump factor

HOWEVER, for every Adlai Stevenson and George Eliot there’s a Trump or Putin. “They just stick,” says Jamieson. They either can’t or won’t change in midlife. The fact so many of these types – nearly all men – display narcissistic traits probably explains the refusal to reevaluate their lives. And tackling “ego” is, as Jamieson says, central to navigating midlife successfully.

Horribly, not dealing with a midlife crisis can potentially have devastating consequences. One of Jamieson’s clients stopped therapy mid-crisis and later killed herself.

Most of our psychological troubles lie, as we know, in childhood. Clearly, the process of birth is intensely traumatic. We might not remember it but as newborns, Jamieson explains, we’re flooded with fear and anxiety hormones. As babies, it is impossible to deal with such trauma. Much of early childhood also remains intensely traumatic.

As infants, we are completely dependent on our parents, especially our mothers whom we bond most closely with. Any sense of abandonment – mum or dad going to work, say – drenches us again in fear and anxiety. This all leaves an indelible “wound”, Jamieson explains.

All of us grow up creating psychological mechanisms to protect us from fears like abandonment. To heal ourselves, we sublimate our fears, hiding from our true feelings – we build up a tough outer shell that is essentially fake. This all makes for a toxic egotistical mix of “narcissism and grandiosity”, says Jamieson. These “defences” are a “great pool of dysfunctionality … projection, denial, regression and deflection”, he adds.

The mask

THAT means “our true self” is pushed down – hidden. In essence, we wear a mask – “a persona” – that helps us get through this cruel world we all live in. But no one can live inside a mask forever. If the mask eventually comes off, says Jamieson, quoting Abraham Lincoln, then we free “the better angels of our nature”.

The Lincoln quote is crucial: Lincoln also went through intense agonies in midlife, seeing himself as a complete failure only to emerge as one of the wisest presidents in American history. Fundamentally, a midlife crisis is about finding a way to become less “ego-orientated” and therefore of more use to society through being our “true selves”.

Jamieson lived through his own midlife crisis. Until his 40s, he was a successful promoter of classical music concerts, then life caught up with him and he “just collapsed completely”. He was tended to by a psychotherapist who had been a patient of Carl Jung, one of the founders of modern psychiatry. When he recovered, Jamieson, now 71, recreated himself: he retrained as a psychotherapist and became the successful practitioner he is today. “I found a second life,” he says. “But there’s always a wound which creates the turmoil of midlife crisis.” Ironically, that wound is, he says, “an enormous potential gift”.

Jamieson’s “wound” lay deep in childhood. His mother adored her father – Jamieson’s grandfather. After Jamieson was born, she returned to her parental home. Jamieson’s father, a naval officer, was at sea. However, within days of Jamieson’s mother returning, her beloved father died.

Her grief gravely disrupted her ability to parent. So, there Jamieson was, a baby who grew into a child, flooded with feelings of fear, anxiety and abandonment. As an adult, his intense workaholic existence was a perfect way to hide from all those issues. Eventually, though, life – the past, childhood – caught up with him and emotionally he was knocked for six.

Conformist hell

SOCIETY, school and work reinforce all these negative aspects of our characters. School and work demand both conformity and a form of ego-driven narcissism to succeed. Teachers and bosses don’t care about your feelings. “To survive, you must be extremely selfish.”

And without conformity, “you’re not going to make progress”, Jamieson says. But these “defences corrupt your true nature” – they suffocate the person you could be.

Counterintuitively, success can often trigger midlife crisis. “People get to the top and then realise they’ve used the wrong ladder,” he explains. “They have lived lives that don’t suit them and they need to reverse. That’s why crisis and opportunity go hand in hand. You’ve got to reconfigure your life without causing too much collateral damage.”

Clearly, though, if handled wrong, midlife crisis can end in divorce and family rupture.

However, if you navigate it right, a midlife crisis, says Jamieson, will leave you without “constant past regrets that hound you, and without fear of the future”. Psychotherapists call this process “individuation”. If a midlife crisis is properly “explored, examined and overcome”, Jamieson adds, “the real self comes out – our anxieties and depression will lift”.

He adds: “The manner in which we conduct our closest relationships will be transformed. Our compassion will deepen as our self-centredness diminishes. Our capacity for humility will be extended. Our concerns about our mortality will diminish.

“Elements of our creativity which have lain dormant for years will be revealed. Our sense of soulfulness and our interest in spirituality will emerge. Such is the power of the kind of self-realisation … which can be the eventual consequence of the midlife crisis.”

The shadow

JAMIESON says you can often spot someone who has come out the other side of a midlife crisis, as the changes in their character are so marked. A little suffering means you are more likely to feel empathy for others.

“That’s what we should all be aiming for,” he says. It’s about looking inward and confronting the darkest aspects of your nature – “the shadow”, as Jamieson calls it. It is not about “killing off” the shadow, but “integrating” it, and coming to terms with the fact it exists.

That means facing our worst flaws, especially ones we deliberately shy away from: rage, sexuality, or weakness. Jamieson says we all know these truths deep within us even if we fear to act on them. It is no coincidence that one of the earliest philosophical maxims came from the elderly Socrates before his death: “The unexamined life is not worth living.”

Mummy Merkel

JAMIESON notes the life of Angela Merkel, a woman intensely conflicted between her upbringing in communist East Germany and her personal Christianity. Merkel’s greatest act was opening her country’s doors to one million Syrian refugees – almost as if she was “atoning for the terrible things Germany did in the past”. In Germany, she’s nicknamed Mutti Merkel – Mummy Merkel: the ultimate moniker for a wise, kind, older woman.

Boris Johnson, he suggests, shows all the characteristics of a man going through an unresolved midlife crisis. He has early childhood trauma – his mother had mental health problems and his father was allegedly violent. He grew up intensely narcissistic – the infamous “world king” quote seems to sum that up – plus he has been through marriage break-up and just lost a top job. If Johnson worked on the crisis he is going through, Jamieson suggests, he would be “transformed”.

In some ways, Jamieson contends, the entire human race might be undergoing a midlife crisis. We have had our terrifying infancy – all that scrabbling for survival as hunter-gatherers; our lonely, confused childhood that staggered on until the medieval period; our successful ego-driven adulthood that took us past the Industrial Revolution and into the 20th century; and now, from maybe 1914 onwards, we are in an intense crisis which, if not handled correctly, could destroy us.

Nuclear war and climate change might, metaphorically, be the Harley-Davidson and stupid affair that brings us to our knees.

Humanity, Jamieson suggests, needs to find the “emotional intelligence” which comes from successfully navigating midlife. “If we don’t we’re in trouble.” Midlife, therefore, is “an evolutionary” issue. “To survive, we must make cultural changes towards empathy and compassion.” If humanity has a collective consciousness, then war is simply the lashing out of an angry, stupid adult who never grew up and discovered how to manage conflict.

The carving knife

THE process of resolving a midlife crisis can be deeply traumatic. Some of Jamieson’s clients “fantasise about burying a carving knife in their parents’ chest”. Many negative feelings link back to childhood and that fear of abandonment or the sense that parents are the ones responsible for someone’s “low self-esteem”.

After his own midlife crisis, Jamieson resolved his problems with his mother. One of the key triggers for midlife crisis is our sense of imminent mortality – that come 40 or 50, we’re closer to death. “We’ve just a handful of decades, time is so bloody short,” Jamieson says. Resolving our psychological problems in midlife allows us to better spend “the time that remains to us … and enjoy the fruits of this transformatory experience”.

Carl Jung, who formulated many of the psychological ideas Jamieson follows, also went through a midlife crisis. A successful, highly ambitious young man, he crashed in midlife, breaking friendships and cheating on his wife. Jung emerged from a deep depression to do his greatest work. “He killed his ego,” Jamieson says.

Jung is a perfect example of the “break it to create it” aspect of midlife crisis. Self-sabotage is often a precursor: that’s why the midlife crisis is so linked to that notion of the Harley-Davidson or stupid affair in the popular imagination.

Midlife, he says, is a “thrust towards self-realisation … we exist in order to develop”, adding: “Yet this development can only be achieved through much exacting and painful experience, including the key phase in our middle years that we’ve come to call the midlife crisis.”

Despite the agony, “it always brings happy endings if it’s worked out properly. If you’re prepared to take on the challenge, you’ll be transformed”.

We finish our conversation and Jamieson invites me to meet him again next week, to take our discussions further. I’d be a fool not to accept. Nobody turns their back on synchronicity – and there’s definitely much work still to do.


From November 21 to November 30 2022 the Herald is running a Black Friday subscription offer which provides full access to our unrivalled coverage of news that matters for just £1. To find out more visit: heraldscotland.com/subscribe


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Nearly 5000 cancer extra cases a year in linked to poverty


NEARLY 5000 cancer diagnoses a year in Scotland could be avoided if the “unacceptable inequalities” in incidence and survival between the most and least deprived communities were eradicated, according to a landmark report.

Smoking, obesity, lower uptake of screening, and patients in more deprived areas opting for “less optimal” treatments because it is difficult to travel to clinics were all blamed for exacerbating the cancer divide between rich and poor.

CASE STUDY: ‘It was such as relief…the cancer had gone, all that was left was a bit of scarring’

The report – ‘Deprivation and Cancer Inequalities in Scotland’ – has been published today by Cancer Research UK to coincide with the Scottish Cancer Conference in Edinburgh.

Speakers at the event, which is being held in-person for the first time since 2019, include Health Secretary Humza Yousaf and public health expert Professor Linda Bauld.HeraldScotland:

Michelle Mitchell, chief executive of Cancer Research UK, said: “Cancer inequalities – unfair, avoidable and systemic differences between population groups – are present at every stage of the cancer pathway, including the prevalence of cancer risk factors, screening uptake and barriers to seeking help.

“Together, these factors contribute to stark differences in cancer incidence and outcomes between the most and least deprived populations across Scotland.

“It is unacceptable that today, cancer-related deaths are 74 per cent higher in the most deprived population than the least deprived in Scotland.

“Scotland has the highest proportion of cancers attributable to preventable risk factors in the UK, with smoking alone responsible for nearly one in five cancer cases.

“Smoking and excess weight, the two biggest causes of cancer, remain persistently high among Scotland’s more deprived populations, which leads to a higher incidence of cancer amongst these groups.

“We need bold government action that enables all people to live healthier lives if we are to reduce cancer inequalities.”

HeraldScotland:

The report provides the first comprehensive picture of deprivation and cancer in Scotland, from diagnosis to treatment.

It notes that the Covid pandemic has “exacerbated the pre-existing health inequalities” and that an estimated 4,900 cases annually – or 13 per day – “could be avoided if the rates of cancer in sites where it is higher for the most deprived were the same rates as for the least deprived”.

Nearly half of these extra cases – 2,400 – are due to lung cancer being more common in deprived communities.

The report also warns that the current ‘tobacco-free’ Scotland target, which aims to see fewer than 5% of adults smoking by 2034, “will not be met without sustained efforts to reduce smoking in more deprived groups”.

READ MORE: Why scientists believe this week’s marks a ‘historic’ turning point in the fight against Alzheimer’s

Excluding old age, smoking is the leading preventable cause of cancer in Scotland – responsible for one in five cases.

The report adds: “In 2019, 32% of people in the most deprived quintile smoked, compared to 6% in the least deprived.

“Projections indicate smoking prevalence will still be 20% in 2034 for the most deprived groups, far short of the tobacco-free target.

“Unless bold action is taken, smoking prevalence for the most deprived groups may not reach even 10% in the next 25 years.

“These differences will manifest in a higher risk of getting and dying from cancer for many decades to come.”

HeraldScotland:

Nearly 7% of cancer cases each year in Scotland are also linked to excess weight, with current forecasts predicting that adult obesity rates will shrink among the least deprived – from 22% in 2019 to 19% by 2040 – but increase over the same period from 36% to 41% among the most deprived.

Obesity rates are also twice as high for children living in the most compared to the least deprived areas, potentially storing up a “greater burden of cancer amongst more deprived groups in the future”.

HeraldScotland:

Survival from cancer is worse in more deprived areas, with Scots living in the poorest areas 10% less likely to be alive five years on from a diagnosis of bowel cancer compared to patients in the most affluent areas.

For both breast and bowel screening uptake is 20% lower in the most deprived populations compared to the least deprived. For cervical screening, the deficit is 11%.

READ MORE: From the ‘witch’ midwife to women’s rights – how Aberdeen revolutionised maternity care 

The report also found that people in routine and manual occupations – a proxy for deprivation – were more than twice as likely to report difficulties in getting a GP appointment compared to those in managerial or professional occupations.

Research has consistently shown higher numbers of GPs per head in more affluent areas compared to deprived postcodes where need is greatest.

People in manual jobs were also significantly more likely to mistake symptoms for an existing condition, or to struggle to access healthcare via phone or email as remote consultations increase.

HeraldScotland:

While no data on emergency cancer referrals by deprivation level are available in Scotland, one in five cancer cases in Scotland is detected after patients present at A&E.

Such diagnoses are more common in the West of Scotland region, where high deprivation is more concentrated, than in the north or east of the country.

The report also suggests that the disproportionate impact of Covid on the poorest Scotland may have temporarily skewed the picture on cancer, noting that while the deprivation gap in cancer mortality “appears to have slightly reduced over the Covid-19 period” this “may be because people from more deprived areas were more likely to die from Covid-19 than those in less deprived areas”.

People living in Scotland’s most deprived neighbourhoods were 2.4 times more likely to have died from Covid than the most affluent.

HeraldScotland:

Meanwhile, the report also highlights discrepancies in accessing treatment, including people in more deprived areas tending to live further from treatment centres or being reliant on public transport.

The report adds: “Some patients have reportedly chosen, or have been prescribed, treatment modes that are less optimal to avoid having to travel.”

Access to clinical trials – which can offer a last-ditch option when conventionally available treatments have failed – also tends be uneven.

The report states: “The barriers can include frequent travel, which can deter patients with disabilities, and healthcare professionals discounting elderly and disabled patients as research participants despite them being eligible.”

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “We know that the earlier cancer is diagnosed the easier it is to treat and even cure which is why we continue to invest in our Detect Cancer Early (DCE) Programme, initially launched in 2012.

“We recognise that the impact from the Covid-19 pandemic may have exacerbated inequalities within screening. A key Ministerial priority is reducing inequalities in access to and uptake of screening programmes.

“That is why we committed up to £2.45 million to the Screening Inequalities Fund over the next two years to build a programme of evidence-based, sustainable and scalable projects that tackle inequalities in a systemic way.

“Last month we announced that the next two Rapid Cancer Diagnostic Services (RCDS) will be established in NHS Lanarkshire and NHS Borders to add to RCDSs in NHS Ayrshire and Arran, NHS Dumfries and Galloway and NHS Fife.

“Addressing obesity remains a public health priority to ensure Scotland is a place where we eat well, have a healthy weight and are physically active. Our Diet and Healthy Weight Delivery Plan sets out ambitious and wide ranging action to address this challenge, including our aim to halve childhood obesity by 2030.

“Our goal is a tobacco-free generation of Scots by 2034 and a number of new strategies are currently being considered as part of our refreshed Tobacco Action Plan including improved support for people who want to quit.”





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New drive to make ‘every child’ a library card holder



THE head of Scotland’s library service said she would like to see as many children as possible become library members “at birth”.

Pamela Tulloch, chief executive of the Scottish Library & Information Council (SLIC), said it is working with health professionals to promote information on the benefits of library membership to parents as early as during antenatal care.

“What we would like to see is more children joining up as library members at birth,” said Ms Tulloch.

It comes as the SLIC and Scottish Government launch a new drive highlighting how library use from as early an age as possible benefits children’s language, literacy and social skills.

APPEAL: How Herald readers can bring joy to children’s lives this Christmas – with the gift of books 

Currently, around 50 per cent of children in Scotland are library card holders, but the Every Child a Library Member (ECALM) campaign aims to see that substantially increased.

ECALM originated as a pilot project over two years ago, but was stalled due to the pandemic and is now being rolled out nationally instead.

Ms Tulloch said: “From my point of view I just think the best present a parent can give a child is a library card. It opens up a world of possibilities and a lifetime of opportunities.

“The younger children are involved with libraries the evidence shows that there’s better attainment at school, there’s better opportunities for young people, and when they come to leave school – if they’ve been regular library users – they tend to have better opportunities for what to do next, so it’s a bit of a no brainer.

“We know that preschool children if they use libraries regularly have improved concentration skills, improved language skills, it develops empathy.

“We know that children read and understand pictures long before they read words so actually them understanding a story and engaging with that story really fires up young imaginations.

“It’s such an important part of children’s development and it’s such an easy thing to do for parents – it’s not something that costs money, it’s something that every parent can given their child.”

READ MORE: Lockdown babies ‘slower to reach key milestones’ 

There are over 500 libraries across Scotland which attracted more than 40 million visitors annually pre-pandemic.

Ms Tulloch said there are already indications that demand has increased.

She said: “All libraries in Scotland have now reopened. What some councils have taken the opportunity to do is change some of the opening hours to better reflect the use that some people are wanting and in some cases, that’s been opening hours expanding.

“Libraries are still the most popular service that local government provides.

“We saw before the pandemic over 40 million visits to local libraries in Scotland; the information I’m getting through from library services now is that a lot of the visitor figures are actually increasing on the 2019 numbers. That could be for a range of reasons but certainly it’s a very healthy picture.”

Concerns have been raised that toddlers who were born during the pandemic have been slower to reach key develop milestones as a result of lockdown reducing their opportunities to interact.

Ms Tulloch said libraries can play an important role in socialisation.

She said: “Libraries have got their full range of child and family programmes up and running so things like book bug for example is a really good opportunity for young children to meet other young children and learn those social skills and how to mix.”

READ MORE: How Aberdeen led the way in revolutionising maternity care 

Every public library service in Scotland has now committed to delivering on the ECALM campaign.

A key part of the initiative will embed opportunities for library membership at three key stages throughout early childhood: birth registration, nursery, and primary school enrolment.

Culture Minister Neil Gray said: “It’s never too early to introduce a child to the joy reading, and library use from an early age supports language, literacy and well-being.

“ECALM is a fantastic initiative which will take children on a learning journey which will last for a lifetime.”





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