THE  deputy first minister has insisted the water being used at two Lanarkshire schools hit by chemical contamination is now safe to use.

But John Swinney said the testing of children at the schools in Coatbridge affected would be carried out if an independent review judged it appropriate.

The education secretary spoke after initiating the review into the health and safety at the shared Buchanan High and St Ambrose High campus in the wake of reports of blue water.

The site was previously used to store industrial waste which included lead and arsenic - sparking contamination concerns.

READ MORE: Scottish Government launches independent review into 'toxic schools'

Some parents have called for immediate testing of children and an independent investigation which would have a wider remit to uncover new evidence about what was going on.

Lisa McCormick who a 14-year-old son, Kian who until two weeks ago was a pupil at St Ambrose, said: "An independent review is looking at the past evidence which happened over a decade ago. That was the evidence that was documented about the site at the time, we are now asking for new evidence.

"We need testing at the site on the state it is today, not looking at old evidence."

Ms McCormick, whose daughter Orla is in P7 and was due to start at the campus in August told Radio Scotland: "We also want our children to be tested, there was no mention of that in the independent review.

"We want to know why our children and staff are being sick."

Mr Swinney said that the remit and scope of the the review will be "very significant and wide" and would cover current public health concerns as well as the development, management and construction of the site.

Asked whether he would drink the water at the schools, he said: "The water has been tested and has been assessed to be safe."

He said that at an earlier stage in the process bottled water was available within the school because there was a concern about the quality of the water.

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Remedial action was then taken to replace internal piping, the source of the water was tested again, and met the appropriate standards.

Asked on Radio Scotland if he thought the water was safe to drink now, he added: "That's what the information available to me, tells me is the case just now, but that's precisely why I have initiated an independent review to make sure we can build public confidence, by examining thoroughly and comprehensively the issues of concern to members of the public."

More than 14,000 people have signed a petition on calling on North Lanarkshire Council to test every pupil and member of staff past and present for toxins or contamination and demanding an independent investigation of the campus site to "check the site is safe from toxic waste".

READ MORE: Parents take children out of 'toxic land' schools over health fears

Asked about testing of children, Mr Swinney said: "The review will determine wheteher additional evidence or action is required in order to address these issues.

"So we have given the review, the ability to explore whether such an approach would be necessary. And I want to ensure that we have the expertise available to make sure that such analysis can be undertaken. If it is judged appropriate to do so.

"Obviously if it is a health concern that a parent has, or a member of staff has, they can access health services to have that investigated.


"In the review remit we have made clear that the review will determine whether additional evidence or action is required in order to provide reassurance to the community. "

He said he was happy to meet with parents as soon as he possibly could.

"I've spoken to the head teachers of both schools, who are clearly very very concerned about the situation, because they're running good schools, good strong performing schools and they want to be able to educate young people," he said.

"But what we've put in place is a very comprehensive independent review, which will be led by the government's chief planning reporter, and also by an experienced public health director, a former public health director within Scotland, who will have the expertise to undertake the analysis to address the concerns that have been raised by members of the public."

On whether there was a safety assessment of the site, he said: "Of course, that will have been done. But the purpose of the independent review is to re-examine all of that and to make sure that the public can have their confidence built around the contents of that process because it's in nobody's interest for there to be doubts and uncertainties about safety at the school.

"Parents are concerned about the location of the school on the site of a former municipal waste site, so we have to get to the nub of some of the issues that underpin the construction of the school which is why the remit of the review is going to do exactly that.

"The remit also extends to look at the public health issues and to look at any patterns emerging within the health experience of pupils and staff at the school.

"So, the remit is deliberately broad to enable the review to explore all of the issues that are of concern to members of the public and to try to identify first of all, if there is further evidence that needs to be explored and examined to satisfy public concerns.

"And then secondly [it aims] to build public confidence around the site because it's in absolutely nobody's interest for children to be, and parents to be uneasy about going to school because they're concerned about the condition of the site and that's why the government has acted, working with North Lanarkshire Council and NHS Lanarkshire, to establish this review to address those concerns."

That review is due to be completed before the next school year begins in August.

At a heated public meeting last week, a health official was booed and met with cries of "liar" as he said that there was "no significant risk to health" from attending the schools.

The NASUWT union later announced that the 12 staff members it represents at Buchanan High - an additional support needs school catering for about 100 pupils - will go on strike next week over the concerns, which centre on "blue water" that has been seen coming from pipes.

The council has launched a website to offer information to parents and staff about the school. 

Council chief executive Des Murray said: “We welcome this review and the support of the Scottish Government in addressing the concerns of families, staff and the local community.”

NHS Lanarkshire chief executive Calum Campbell added: "Following thorough investigations by our public health department we believe the schools to be safe.

"We welcome the review as an opportunity to provide even further reassurance to families, staff at the schools and the community."