A COUNCILLOR believes more should be done to diversify Scottish Borders Council (SBC) so that it represents everyone.

John Greenwell, of the Mid Berwickshire ward, holds the role of “equalities and diversity champion” at the local authority.

He told the Peeblesshire News: "I think we have to think about how we can recruit people from ethnic minorities to become elected members.

“Because, otherwise, we aren't representative of the people at large."

Mr Greenwell’s interview with this newspaper comes weeks after sisters from Peebles outlined their experience of racism in the Borders.

Hannah and Sara Alkashmim described some of the appalling abuse they encountered when growing up as mixed-race girls.

They also said some people in the region fail to recognise racism, with the pair pointing out that racism is “not always intentional”.

Mr Greenwell, of the Conservatives, agrees with the Alkashmim sisters, who now work as nursery teachers in Edinburgh.

"If you're talking about racism in the Borders, there’s probably a lot of 'indirect' racism carried out – without people actually realising they're being racist,” Mr Greenwell said.

"A woman a couple of weeks ago described our corner shop, which is run by a very nice chap, he's a pillar of the community, but her description of the shop was inappropriate – and I did point that out to her.

"The same with our Chinese takeaway – people refer to that in an inappropriate manner.

"So, I would agree that there is probably more indirect racism in the Borders than 'actual' racism."

Reflecting on the composition of the council, Mr Greenwell believes there is room for improvement from a diversity standpoint.

He said: "One thing I'm always keen to point out to our elected members is that when you look around the chamber, and the council, it doesn't actually reflect the community at large.

"For example, there are no ethnic minority councillors that I can think of.”

Mr Greenwell's son Dion, who is black, believes education is the key to tackling racism.

Dion, 35, told the Peeblesshire News: "There are always going to be good and bad people.

"If we can pass information on to the next generation, it will help to diminish racism.

"When kids hear derogatory words, they don't know what it means – and they're not going to look it up either.

"Without the understanding of derogatory words, there's no way to kill it.

"We need to stand up for what is right."

Dion, an IT engineer, says he has personally experienced some racism in the Borders, but those matters were “addressed at the time”.

"I wouldn't say there isn't an issue [about racism] in the Borders, but I don't think it's massive,” said Dion, who lives in Galashiels.

On the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement, he said: "For me, BLM is an understandable movement, but the water has been muddied.

"People can hijack the BLM phrase and spraypaint it over statues or shops, and it makes things look bad.

"It's a distraction with an aim to divide."

An SBC spokesperson said the local authority would be happy to offer advice to anyone considering becoming a councillor.

The spokesperson said: "Potential councillors put themselves forward, or are nominated by their political party, to stand in the local government elections. 

"We welcome candidates from all walks of life and would be happy to offer advice and support to anyone considering becoming a candidate in the next election in 2022."

The council has 34 elected members covering 11 wards.