THE firm behind Edinburgh's Hogmanay celebrations have been accused of exploiting workers after looking for staff to work up to 12 hours - for free.

The New Year festival has been urged to scrap 300 unpaid positions that would see young workers give their time in exchange for travel expenses and a personalised certificate.

The events company responsible for the event, Underbelly, won the £800,000 contract to run the Hogmanay event for the next three years back in March.

While tickets to the world-famous street party cost £26 per head, Underbelly are seeking unpaid staff to host, supervise, and dance at the event.

The positions would also require staff to attend up to two days of training prior to the event, also for free.

Bryan Simpson, from the living-wage campaign group Better Than Zero, hit back at the call for volunteers, saying: "To ask hundreds of highly skilled workers to be the face of Edinburgh Hogmanay in the freezing cold for free is not just morally reprehensible, it may be unlawful, particularly given the fact that Underbelly is a profit-making organisation.”

However Labour Councillor Donald Wilson, the city's culture leader, defended the decision to use unpaid volunteers, stating: “The council promotes fair wages for all, and will only support organisations which pay the living wage to their staff.

"Edinburgh’s Hogmanay is a living wage event but, like most festivals and major events, it also offers unique opportunities for volunteers to be part of something special.

"This summer, for instance, we saw citizens take to the streets to champion Edinburgh in August as part of a pilot project with Festivals Edinburgh. This is Underbelly taking inspiration from this scheme, with a programme which allows those who are interested to be part of their production.”

SNP MP Stewart McDonald, who leads a campaign to scrap unpaid trial shifts, said: "Whilst volunteering is a great opportunity to gain new skills, we must receive assurances that those who staff the event, and make it a success, are not being exploited for something that would normally be paid work.”

Ross Greer MSP, culture spokesman for the Scottish Greens, claimed that such exploitation would leave Scotland’s reputation “tarnished”.

Labour MSP Neil Findlay stated: “I find it absolutely outrageous that we have one of the busiest days of the year, bringing in probably one of the biggest incomes of the year to Edinburgh, and here we have a company exploiting that situation by attempting to take on hundreds of most likely young people for zero pay.

“This to me is a scandal and I would call on the organisers to immediately end this practice, and pay people at least a living wage for their hours.”

A spokeswoman for Edinburgh’s Hogmanay insisted volunteers would not “in any way replace any paid employment”.

She said the roles “are there to provide opportunities for people who want to get involved in major international events either for experience, camaraderie or any other reason, and who choose to volunteer”.

She concluded: "Volunteering is a fantastic way to get involved at a festival such as Hogmanay and has been shown to have many social and wellbeing benefits and we believe Hogmanay will be enriched by giving people the opportunity to be involved on a voluntary basis."

Unique Events, who hosted the celebrations previously, confirmed they had never used unpaid volunteers at previous Hogmany celebrations.