Water at review schools assessed to be safe, John Swinney insists


Tests have shown water at a school where several current and former teachers have been diagnosed with cancer is safe to drink, the Education Secretary has insisted.

Concerns have been raised after blue water came from taps in Buchanan and St Ambrose High Schools in Coatbridge, North Lanarkshire – whose joint campus is built on a former landfill site.

John Swinney said the water there had been tested and been “assessed to be safe”.

He added the Scottish Government had taken the “unusual step” of setting up an independent review to help “address concerns” of parents and teachers.

Parents, however, say that pupils and teaching staff at the site should be tested to see if there has been any impact on health.

Mother Lisa McCormick stated: “We want an independent investigation, we don’t want an independent review.”

Ms McCormick, whose son Kian attends St Ambrose High, told BBC Radio Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland programme: “We’re asking for new evidence, we need testing done on that site as of the state it is today, not looking at old evidence.

“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.”

Thirty-seven teachers from the NASUWT union have voted for strike action at the two schools while more than 13,400 people have signed a petition calling for an investigation and for staff and pupils to be tested for toxins.

But the Education Secretary said if parents or staff had concerns, they could see their doctor for testing.

“If there is a health concern that a parent has or a member of staff has, they can access health services to have that investigated,” he told BBC Radio Scotland.

Asked if he would drink the water at the school, Mr Swinney stated: “The water has been tested and has been assessed to be safe.

“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.

“Remedial action was then taken to replace internal piping within the school and the source of the water has been tested again and it met the appropriate standards.”

He added: “It’s in nobody’s interests for there to be doubts and uncertainties about the safety of the school, that is exactly why I have commissioned an independent review, to make sure that can be the case.”

The review will examine health concerns, including possible exposure to unspecified chemicals in the water resulting from previous land use at the new school site, to see if these are linked to developing cancer.

Mr Swinney said: “The review will determine whether additional evidence or action is required in order to provide reassurance to the community.”