IT was the biggest stitch-up since Beau Brummell told the Prince Regent he needed some new togs; with a flick of a barrister’s pink highlighter, the Press Recognition Panel (PRP) this week officially granted Royal Charter status to Max Mosley’s bid to muzzle the British press.

So to the list of royal charters that includes ancient universities, the BBC and the East India Company, we can add Impress, the thrown-together media regulator with very little to regulate. At least the colonialists of the old East India Company were more transparent in their aims.

Impress is funded by a charity established by the former Formula One chief Mosley, whose participation in an orgy with prostitutes was revealed by the now-defunct News of the World and, as expected, it got the nod from the PRP on Tuesday.

But, thanks to a barrage of criticism, of which I’m proud to say this column last week played a small part, UK Culture Secretary Karen Bradley signalled she was drawing back from the implementation of Section 40 of the Crime & Courts Act, the blackmail clause designed to force publishers into the arms of a government-sanctioned regulator like Impress.

The Section 40 “incentive” was that any publisher not joining the state-approved regulator would be open to exemplary damages in English courts and there would be a presumption it would have to foot the bill for both side’s costs, whether it won the case or not. This was an outrageous perversion of natural justice but Ms Bradley has seen sense

The key difference between Impress and the Independent Press Standards Organisation (Ipso), the press regulator the vast majority of publications including The Herald have signed up to, is cash. Ipso has been attacked by the Hacked Off campaign because it is funded by the news industry, even though this was a recommendation of the Leveson Report.

Impress too has attracted criticism because its funding comes entirely from one man with an axe to grind and, in defending its arrangements, the PRP chairman David Wolfe QC said: “Just because somebody funds something, that in and of itself doesn’t constitute a lack of independence.” Presumably that applies equally to Ipso. Why we in the press are so vehement in our belief that government should have no part to play whatsoever in press regulation was illustrated by the Scottish Parliament motion after Ipso’s rejection of complaints about a column written by former Sun editor Kelvin MacKenzie in his old paper.

He crassly asked why Channel 4 had allowed hijab-wearing newsreader Fatima Manji to front a bulletin after the Nice lorry attack. Manji complained to Ipso that the column discriminated against her and had suggested that, by wearing Islamic headgear, she was demonstrating support for terrorism. Nearly 2,000 other complaints were received by Ipso, which is a lot of angry people. The regulator ruled that, no matter how offensive many people found the comments, the writer was entitled to express his opinions.

Supported by 18 MSPs, including Conservative deputy leader Jackson Carlaw, the motion condemning Ipso’s decision says “the media have a responsibility to set a tone of inclusiveness, tolerance and respect at all times”. Says who? And who sets the bar for what is or isn’t tolerant or respectful?

I don’t have a problem with Manji or anyone else wearing a hijab to read news about horrors committed in the name of Islam but I do have a problem with politicians trying to police what can or cannot be said, and I’m not alone.

Stephen Evans of the National Secular Society said: “Whatever your opinion of the points … Kelvin MacKenzie should be free to express his views”.

The Index on Censorship commented: “MacKenzie’s views are offensive. But … he should be entitled to express his opinion.” Jo Glanville of the English PEN, which promotes and defends freedom of expression, added: “Freedom of expression includes the right to offend, shock or disturb.”

Interestingly, less than a year ago three signatories of the latest Holyrood motion, SNP MSPs Bill Kidd, David Torrance and Gil Paterson, signed another motion that described the Charlie Hebdo massacre as “an attack on the right of free speech”.

Charlie Hebdo, readers might remember, not only ran a cartoon of Mohammed on the front but also another showing Jesus performing a sex act on God. So, gentlemen, where did Charlie Hebdo fit in with “respect at all times”; or does “the right of free speech” only apply after journalists are murdered?

John McLellan is director of the Scottish Newspaper Society.