Background: Depression is highly prevalent within individuals diagnosed with schizophrenia, and is associated with an increased risk of suicide. There are no current evidence based treatments for low mood within this group. The specific targeting of co-morbid conditions within complex mental health problems lends itself to the development of short-term structured interventions which are relatively easy to disseminate within health services. A brief cognitive intervention based on a competitive memory theory of depression, is being evaluated in terms of its effectiveness in reducing depression within this group. Methods/Design: This is a single blind, intention-to-treat, multi-site, randomized controlled trial comparing Positive Memory Training plus Treatment as Usual with Treatment as Usual alone. Participants will be recruited from two NHS Trusts in Southern England. In order to be eligible, participants must have a DSM-V diagnosis of schizophrenia or schizo-affective disorder and exhibit at least a mild level of depression. Following baseline assessment eligible participants will be randomly allocated to either the Positive Memory Training plus Treatment as Usual group or the Treatment as Usual group. Outcome will be assessed at the end of treatment (3-months) and at 6-month and 9-month post randomization by assessors blind to group allocation. The primary outcome will be levels of depression and secondary outcomes will be severity of psychotic symptoms and cost-effectiveness. Semi-structured interviews will be conducted with all participants who are allocated to the treatment group so as to explore the acceptability of the intervention. Discussion: Cognitive behaviour therapy is recommended for individuals diagnosed with schizophrenia. However, the number of sessions and length of training required to deliver this intervention has caused a limit in availability. The current trial will evaluate a short-term structured protocol which targets a co-morbid condition often considered of primary importance by service users. If successful the intervention will be an important addition to current initiatives aimed at increasing access to psychological therapies for people diagnosed with severe mental health problems. Trial registration: Current Controlled Trials. ISRCTN99485756. Registered 13 March 2014.