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Edinburgh’s Hogmanay has come under fire for charging visitors to swim in the sea during its New Year’s Eve event.

A ticket to take part in the Loony Dook, where brave volunteers dip in the freezing waters of the Forth at South Queensferry, is administered by the London arts company Underbelly.

The price of tickets has doubled since Unique Events, the former organisers of Edinburgh’s Hogmanay events, introduced an “administration fee” of £6 in 2011 to manage the increasing numbers.

The charge was the subject of criticism. “How can you ticket the damned Forth?” said Susan Rae, a green councillor for Leith Walk. “I don’t know what’s worse: charging people £12 to get in the sea or people handing over £12 to get in the sea?”

Nikki MacLeod, a Scottish green activist who watched a free swim take place nine miles away added: “Feck off Edinburgh City Council and Underbelly.”

Norman Work, a SNP councillor and convener of the licencing committee defended the decision: “A massive event needs to be organised or there would be serious health and safety issues. Who would pay for road closures, stewards, etc? A lot of money is raised for charity and it’s a boost to local businesses.

“There’s definitely needs to be a rethink of Edinburgh’s Hogmanay celebrations, but Edinburgh is on the bucket list, it’s world famous and we could lose the status if it dumbed down.”