Scots load up on gold as vote gets underway

With uncertainties surrounding the independence referendum, anxious investors in Scotland have been busy adding to their holdings of gold.

Online dealer BullionByPost, which claims to be the biggest online gold dealer in the U.K., said that it saw a 37 percent jump in sales to customers from Scotland between Sept. 9 and Sept. 16, a bigger jump than the growth seen in any other part of the United Kingdom.

“Whenever there’s uncertainty it always increases people’s propensity to buy gold,” Rob Halliday-Stein, the founder and MD of BullionByPost, told CNBC.

Read More Scotland: Who’s likely to vote Yes or No

It was a similar story at BullionVault, a London-based online marketplace for physical gold and silver. Adrian Ash, head of research at BullionVault, told CNBC via email that numbers are up across the board, as they always are in September, but the uplift in activity from Scottish residents had been notable.

As a proportion of active customers using the company’s system, Scottish customers have grown 42 percent so far in September from the previous 2014 average, according to Ash. BullionVault’s most recent data show that its proportion of Scottish customers had been 4.14 percent until Sept. 15. It shot up to 8.9 percent on Sept. 16.

Chris Ratcliffe | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Chris Ratcliffe | Bloomberg | Getty Images

“A little insurance looks wise,” Ash told CNBC. “While the U.K. authorities are only now preparing for a ‘yes’ vote, their likely response to capital flight from Scotland is obvious. Owning physical gold or silver in a secure, foreign vault, ready for instant sale if you need the cash, would at least keep some wealth far away from any ’emergency’ controls on domestic bank accounts.”

Read More Great Scot! Scotland’s surprising inventions

The U.K. pound has seen a sharp sell-off in recent weeks on the uncertainty with the result set to be announced on Friday morning. The argument over whether an independent Scotland could keep the pound has been raging for months, and U.K. banks and Scottish-based firms have also seen a dip in stock prices with state-owned lenders saying that they would redomicile south of the border in the event of a “yes to independence” vote.

There’s also uncertainty about the debt burden that an independent Scotland would share with the rest of the U.K., and the country has also been given a potential sovereign risk rating in the lower BBB region, one notch above junk, by risk rating group IHS.

Halliday-Stein said only really a few customers—from both sides of the voting spectrum—had decided to buy the precious metal. However, he said that he was expecting a “much bigger move” in the event of a “yes” vote.

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