THE announcement that Edinburgh’s Hogmanay party – £26 a ticket and estimated to bring in business worth £40 million – is advertising for 300 unpaid volunteers, is yet another indictment on our society, and on our local government, which could stop this exploitation (Edinburgh Hogmanay organisers slammed for seeking 300 unpaid volunteers, The National, November 29).

Volunteering used to be something that folk did to help make things happen that wouldn’t happen otherwise: things like community fairs. Voluntary work, more or less organised, is the glue that holds communities together. But, like so much else, volunteering is increasingly being co-opted by capitalism – as is most blatant in the unpaid “voluntary” work forced on unemployed people by various workfare and “work experience” schemes. When it brings the worker something positive for themselves, then the exploitation can seem less obvious, but that doesn’t mean it should be ignored or accepted. That is why the fight against the use of unpaid labour must include the use of volunteers at festivals.

We have heard some pleasant experiences of such volunteering as well as some unhappy ones, but that is not really the point. We don’t generally expect people to not be paid if they find their jobs at all enjoyable, and the experience would only be improved by the addition of a wage! Working unpaid at a festival is a bit like doing the washing up to pay for your restaurant meal, and having to eat that meal at the kitchen sink. (Even someone on Jobseeker’s Allowance who lost in benefits most of what they had earned would be no worse off for being paid.)

“So what?”, people have said to us, if people volunteer that is their choice. But in making that choice they are effectively undercutting paid jobs. If work is needed by the organisers, it should be paid for. The impact of individual choices is rarely limited to the individual, and for the sake of wider society we need to come together to make sure that such exploitative practices are recognised as unacceptable. Everyone who takes a stand against such practices is fighting for all workers, employed and unemployed, and putting a barrier in the path of the drive towards a no-pay economy.

The outcry against the Hogmanay organisers is hugely encouraging to all of us who have been fighting against the abuse of volunteering. So here’s a suggestion for a New Year resolution: let’s all demand of our local councils that they make it a rule that for a commercial event to receive a licence or use council-owned venues, everyone who works there must get paid for their labour.
Sarah Glynn
Scottish Unemployed Workers’ Network

EMMA Harper asked Mike Russell a pertinent question during his update to Holyrood’s finance committee on the UK Government’s EU Withdrawal Bill, and I was surprised to see his reply (Will the Irish border impact on Scots? The National, December 1).

The port of Cairnryan is in Emma’s constituency, and she asked whether or not there has been any progress on the Irish border, and “how will it help or hinder us in Scotland?”. Mike Russell’s reply was, “We have to be careful in discussing that issue”, without actually discussing it.

But here’s the thing. The Scottish Government has been asking Westminster for some time now for information on the impact of Brexit on Scotland, and rightly complained vociferously about the poor, and heavily redacted, response.

Although the Irish question is a sensitive one, so is Scotland’s. Therefore, why is the demand to know more about the effect of Brexit on Scotland as a whole not matched with at least a discussion on what the effect of any change in the Irish border situation might mean to Scotland and ports such as Cairnryan?
Dennis White
Blackwood, Lanark

UNBELIEVABLE! On The Daily Politics on BBC 2 both Jacob Rees-Mogg MP and Tim Montgomerie were blaming the attitude of Ireland for the difficulty in finding a solution to the Irish border question, apparently forgetting that the whole situation is caused by the UK in the first place. The arrogance is amazing. We know this but sometimes hearing it afresh still amazes you.
Susan Grant