Around 2.4million workers in Scotland will receive a tax cut today as the general election campaign gets underway in earnest.

The UK-wide reduction in National Insurance from 12 to 10%, announced by Chancellor Jeremy Hunt in November’s autumn statement, takes effect earlier than usual.

The Treasury estimates the change will save the average UK salaried worker around £450 a year, however opposition parties say more will be lost to frozen income tax thresholds. 

North of the border, the NI cut is worth around £340 to the average Scottish salary.

Mr Hunt’s decision to implement the change in the New Year, rather than waiting until the start of the 2024/25 tax year in April, had fuelled speculation about a general election in May.

However Rishi Sunak this week said his “working assumption” was an election in the second half of the year, with November now seen as the likeliest date.

Mr Hunt said the national insurance cut would be worth £450 for an employee of £35,400, rising to £520 for a full-time nurse, £630 for a teacher and £750 for a junior doctor.

Because the national insurance change is UK-wide, it also applies to Scottish taxpayers, although most face higher rates of income tax than their counterparts in the rest of the UK.

Mr Hunt said: “Today’s cut in national insurance by 2% means that a typical family with two earners will be nearly a thousand pounds better off this year.

“That is really important in a cost-of-living crisis where people have been feeling real pressure on family budgets, but also it rewards work, it’ll bring more people into the labour force and that is good for growing the economy.”

Hinting at further tax cuts in the UK spring budget due on March 6, he added: “It’s the start of a process, as Chancellor if I can afford to go further I will, I don’t yet know if I can.

“But we want to do this because it helps families, it also helps to grow the economy, and we believe that a lightly taxed economy will grow faster and in the end that’ll mean more money for public services like the NHS.”

Mr Sunak added: “We have made tough decisions on the economy, supporting people through global shocks such as the pandemic and Putin’s illegal invasion of Ukraine. 

“It is because of the tough decisions this government has taken that today we are able to cut taxes for 27 million people across the UK.

“Today’s tax cuts will directly reward hard working people, putting £450 back in the pocket of the average worker and helping them make ends meet.”

Labour said that despite the cuts, the freezing of income tax and national insurance thresholds meant that many families have been drawn into higher tax bands.

South of the border, the threshold for the 40p higher rate of income tax has been frozen at £50,720 since 2021 and is due to stay frozen until 2027/28, drawing millions more workers into the higher band as their wages rise, a process known as fiscal drag.

In Scotland, the higher rate threshold has been frozen at £43,662 for four years, also leading to fiscal drag, while a higher rate of 42p is applied, leading to relatively higher tax bills.

Labour yesterday launched a poster campaign about “Rishi’s raw deal” on tax.

Shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves said: “Under Rishi Sunak’s raw deal, for every extra £10 people are paying in tax they are only getting £2 back.

“Working people know that this month’s tax con is just a cynical giveaway from a weak and out-of-touch Tory government that is desperate to cling onto power, rather than a credible plan to fix our broken economy.

“After 14 years of working people being left worse off under the Conservatives, it’s time for change.

“Rishi Sunak should call an election and give the public the chance to vote for a changed Labour Party that will change Britain for the better.”

The Liberal Democrats also pointed to the impact of frozen tax thresholds on the public, describing 2024 as the “year of the squeezed middle”.

Research by the party suggests the combined impact of taxes, mortgage rises and food inflation could be a £4,700 “hit” on the average household.

Calling for a cost-of-living rescue package, the party’s Treasury spokesperson Sarah Olney MP said: “2024 is set to be the year of the squeezed middle, as families continue to be clobbered by unfair tax hikes, soaring mortgage payments and higher shopping bills.

“People are worried sick about paying the bills and having to make big cutbacks just to get by. But instead of helping, Rishi Sunak is hitting families with yet more tax rises while the Conservative Party soap opera continues in Westminster.”

Scottish Secretary Alister Jack added: “The National Insurance cut which comes into force today is a welcome boost - it means an average saving this year of £340 for 2.4m workers in Scotland.

"It shows how the UK Government is determined to support family budgets, in contrast to the Scottish Government which has turned Scotland into the most highly taxed part of the UK.

“We have already halved inflation and we will do more to support families and grow the economy."