IF BOOK festivals are a place of thoughtfulness, a place to reflect on where we are in the world, then Edinburgh is the perfect setting this month.

Weeks before the referendum and following on from the gold-medal winning success of Glasgow hosting the Commonwealth Games, there is much to consider.

While Game of Thrones author George RR Martin, Martin Amis and Haruki Murakami will pull in the crowds to Charlotte Square when the Edinburgh International Book Festival opens on August 9, political discourse is likely to be central to many of the talks and debates in the tented square.

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Among more than 750 authors taking part, Alex Salmond and Gordon Brown will take centre stage. The First Minister will be in conversation with Sir Tom Devine, examining Scotland's past, present and future in a discussion about the nation's long journey towards the independence referendum and what might happen after September. And Mr Brown will talk to Alistair Moffat, looking at the context and history of the Union.

The sold-out events offer an exciting opportunity to get to the very heart of the independence debate, according to book festival director Nick Barley. He said: "Two of Scotland's leading historians and writers are joined by politicians who are committed to contrasting visions of Scotland's future. Their dialogues will examine Scotland's constitutional question and the nation's future relationship with the rest of the United Kingdom, from an informed perspective."

As Scotland faces the prospect of a bold future after the referendum, it also considers its past in the Empire Cafe strand, curated by writer Louise Welsh and architect Jude Barber. Slavery was abolished throughout the British Empire in 1833 but the Empire continued to expand until the early 20th century. What part did Scotland play, and how can we make sense of Britain's role in the shameful era of slave trading, they ask?

Past, present and future, Charlotte Square offers much food for thought.

Edinburgh Book Festival, From August 9-25. Visit www.edbookfest.co.uk