THREE Scottish councils have come under attack by unions for being involved in controversial welfare-to-work programmes.

The council schemes see the unemployed working for free - in roles like administration, recycling and tourism operations - in return for benefits.

The schemes - which mean those on benefits have to complete voluntary or unpaid work or risk being sanctioned - have been criticised for being exploitative. Questions have been raised over why unemployed people in the schemes are not simply given a job and paid a fair wage.

Argyll and Bute Council has confirmed it is taking part in "workfare" schemes, with nearly 150 placements in the past two years. It said there had been a total of 83 placements through the mandatory work activity scheme and 58 had been on community work placements.

A spokeswoman said: “All placements benefit the participants and their community and include environmental work in woodland and community gardens, and assisting at tourist outlets, recycling organisations and in charity shops.”

Perth and Kinross Council said there had been nine placements in the past two years under the Get Britain Working (GBW) work experience scheme, with jobs including work in administration, recycling operations and youth work.

A spokeswoman added: “The Council has been involved in the GBW work experience scheme with the Department of Work and Pensions. We are in discussions currently regarding renewal of the GBW agreement.”

West Dunbartonshire Council said its library service had three placements through the workfare scheme in the past two years.

A spokeswoman added: “We no longer have any involvement.”

Jamie Caldwell, community organiser with the Unite union, said: “Decent work that pays should be a basic right and the Tory Government’s workfare scheme is nothing short of a disgrace.

“Scottish local authorities should not be aiding what we consider to be a form of modern day slavery. The extent of unpaid working roles at Argyll & Bute Council in particularly is shocking.

“Unite has been campaigning hard to expose and counter unpaid and precarious employment practices across the private sector since their rise under the previous UK coalition government - and now being accelerated by the Tory majority.

“However, for local authorities, particularly in Scotland, there is absolutely no excuse.”