ENEMIES of the people! No spleen was knowingly unvented on the pages of the pro-Leave press following the High Court ruling that Parliament should have the final say-so about triggering Article 50. No doubt the knives are being sharpened in readiness for confirmation of the ruling from the 11 Supreme Court judges.

Described to me by one very senior lawyer as the “El Classico” of court cases, the clever money seems to be tipping towards agreement that the Government has the right to deal with international treaties without prior approval from the Commons (or Holyrood for that matter) but it would be no surprise if their lordships support the High Court’s interpretation.

Far from ignoring the EU referendum result, the High Court specifically acknowledged the political importance of the outcome but pointed out that its job was to look at the effect “in law” of the vote and so its ruling is 32 pages of dry argument about legal precedent and the meaning of language. The judges were not enemies of the people or friends of anything other than the interpretation of words.

This is absolutely as it should be and, notably, the Government did not dispute the principle that the judges had the right to decide one way or another, or challenge their impartiality as unbiased arbiters. Without believing judges are free of influence, political pressure or preconceptions in reaching verdicts, the whole system crumbles. As they say in Scots law, “ye canny murmur a judge”.

It might be fine for commentators to be partial or judgemental, but judges must avoid saying or doing anything that affects their reputation for independence. It should be the same for all involved with officially-sanctioned regulation, especially those with significant legal punishments attached. For example, take Impress, the newly recognised newspaper regulator with no major newspapers to regulate even though it says it “protects publishers, journalists and the public” and will award a kitemark to news publishers “who meet our standards”.

It is therefore legitimate to ask what those standards might be, what kind of protection will be offered to all publishers and who is doing the protecting. As it has been approved by the Government’s Royal Charter process and has a legal position thanks to Section 40 of the Crime & Courts Act, it should be a given that its adjudicators display the impartiality expected of those with quasi-judicial responsibilities.

The Impress founder and chief executive, Jonathan Heawood, is also a regular advocate for “Stop Funding Hate” a campaign to persuade such as The Sun, Daily Mail, Daily Telegraph and Daily Express. Fellow Impress board members Emma Jones, a journalist, and Ulster University lecturer Maire Messenger Davies have also expressed support for “Stop Funding Hate”. Ms Messenger Davies is chairwoman of Impress’s Code Committee (which so far has just purloined the Editors’ Code of Conduct established in parallel with the old Press Complaints Commission) and habitually uses Twitter to circulate attacks on newspapers she doesn’t like.

Other code committee members Gavin Phillipson of Durham University and Leeds University’s Paul Wragg make no secret of their dislike of right-wing papers and their colleague Mary Fitzgerald claimed newspaper proprietors were plotting a coup in the event of a Labour win in the 2015 General Election.

They are entitled to their views and some Herald readers might agree with them but, against that background, are they really the right people to run an unbiased regulator that recognises and supports a robust and rumbustious press with wide differences of opinion?

In his 2012 report, Lord Leveson acknowledged that to be “irreverent, unruly and opinionated” was an essential characteristic of the British press. He was “firmly of the belief that the British press, all of it, serves the country very well for the vast majority of the time”.

Of his recommendations, which Impress claims to uphold in full, Number 23 couldn’t be clearer: “A new system of regulation should not be considered sufficiently effective if it does not cover all significant news publishers.”

The question, therefore, is why the Government’s Press Recognition Panel felt able to approve a regulator run by people openly hostile to newspapers with a particular political outlook. In the case of Brexit it’s an outlook shared by the majority of British people. For those who say they hate papers like The Sun, Mail and Express, it’s really their readers they despise.

John McLellan is director of the Scottish Newspaper Society.