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Ownership of UK gold up for negotiation if Scotland votes “Yes”

(Reuters) – An independent Scotland could lay claim to a part of the United Kingdom’s 310-tonne gold reserves if votes go in favour of the “Yes” campaign this month, with ownership of Britain’s bullion hoard up for negotiation along with other assets.

“The distribution of the UK’s assets in the event of Scottish independence would be subject to negotiation between an independent Scottish Government and the continuing UK government,” a spokesman for the United Kingdom Treasury said on Monday.

The United Kingdom, whose reserves are worth 7.84 billion pounds ($12.6 billion) at today’s prices, is currently the world’s 18th largest official sector gold holder.

A decision to break away from the United Kingdom when Scotland’s voters go to the polls on Sept. 18 would be followed by negotiations with London over a raft of assets, including the pound and North Sea oil.

Supporters of Scottish independence over the weekend took their first opinion poll lead since the referendum campaign began, with a YouGov survey for the Sunday Times newspaper putting the “Yes” to independence campaign on 51 percent against the “No” camp on 49 percent.

Former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has faced persistent criticism for disposing of almost 400 tonnes of the United Kingdom’s gold via a series of auctions between 1999 and 2002, when prices were at their lowest in around 20 years.

Gold prices surged over the following decade, topping out in September 2011 at $1,920.30 an ounce, nearly five times their end 2002 level.

Brown returned to frontline politics this year to campaign for the preservation of Scotland’s 307-year old union with England.

Spot gold was at $1,265 an ounce on Monday, little changed from Friday. Sterling-denominated gold outperformed as the pound sank to a 10-month low versus the dollar, and was up 0.8 percent at 784.96 pounds an ounce at 1122 London time.