In Europe, Scottish, Catalan, and Basque seperatist movements are primarily associated with left-wing politics. Others, like Lega Nord in Italy or the Vlaams Belang campaigning for a petition of Belgium, are primarily associated with the political right.

In most of those places, the seccesionist movement is completely dominated by a particular party with a particular colour. Why is it that separatism sometimes congregates with progressive/left-wing parties, and sometimes rather with conservative/right-wing parties?

  • 1
    I'd say it's completely orthogonal. Regardless of your other political opinion, you want your country to become an independant one based on ethno/linguistical/cultural differences, and unability from the national government to care enough about your region.
    – Bregalad
    Commented Jun 25, 2015 at 12:37
  • 3
    @Bregalad One might think so, but if whoever dominates the secessionist movement promotes islamophobia (Flanders), or marxism (Kurdistan), moderate people who support independence may be very reluctant to rally for this movement, at least openly.
    – gerrit
    Commented Jun 25, 2015 at 13:03
  • Interestingly, Lega Nord was not clearly right wing at the beginning (when the secessionist sentiment was stronger). For instance see this manifest opposing Jean Marie Lepen. arengario.net/misc/misc167.html.
    – pinpon
    Commented Sep 21, 2023 at 8:13
  • Catalan separatism is fairly evenly split between "Junts per Catalunya" (right) and "Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya" (left). Which party is the leading one depends of the last electoral result.
    – Rekesoft
    Commented Sep 21, 2023 at 14:03

3 Answers 3


Secessionist movements are dominated by those who feel marginalized by the current government to the point where they believe the best solution would be to start their own government to represent them. This can happen on the left or right depending on the country, based on what views tend to be least reflected by their government. The important factor is the feeling of alienation can provide a sense of solidarity, and that is the essential element for any political party.


Secessionist movements are largely determined as the opposite of, or at least different from the governing party. So if the government is on the right, the secessionist movement is likely to be on the left, and vice-versa.

  • 2
    I'll also add that each nation has it's own definition on "left" and "right", that has nothing to do with the original French revolution meanings. Some americans consider thier Democrat pary to be a left, but in europe we say it's on the right. In Russia, the pro-communism nostalgics are "right" and the liberal democrats are "left", thus things are reverted as opposed to western Europe. I'm almost certain within western Europe itself there is oddities between countries.
    – Bregalad
    Commented Jun 29, 2015 at 21:35
  • @Bregalad: Fair enough.
    – Tom Au
    Commented Jun 29, 2015 at 22:23

Some points need to be considered:

  • As stated by Bregalad in a comment, left and right definitions are very relative. Democrats in the US would be centre-right in France.
  • And the reality if often more complex than what it may seems. Amonst your examples, in Catalonia, the left-wing ERC reached an agreement with the right-wing CiU. And the CiU is the currently governing party. Often both sides are present.
  • In a same country, different "independentists" groups have different views. For example, in France, in Brittany, the main (but not only one!) independence movement is represented by the UDB, which is mostly on the left. Whereas in Alsace, the most notable regionalist party, Alsace D'abord is on the far-right. So it is not a simple rejection of the central government.

I think that the reasons are more historical. In Scotland, even now, the second political party after the SNP is the Labour (left-wing), which was until recently the first one.

It can be seen in local elections: in Berlin, Germany, the left-wing SPD have lead the government since 2002; Baden-Würtenberg has been taken by a left-wing coalition in 2011; and meanwhile, Bavaria is overwhelmingly kept by the right-wing CSU.

Now why some regions/states usually vote on one side, while others on another side reflects their local culture and history and is way beyond the scope of this answer.

But the independence parties/groups essentially reflects that local culture and/or history. Which explains why you observe the mentioned differences.

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